African lions tricked by eyes painted on cows’ backsides

Tigers and lions are reluctant to attack from the front, which can be used in conservation. A British scientist in Botswana, Africa is taking a leaf out of the book of tiger conservationists in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh, which is a 10,000 kmĀ² tiger reserve, and where locals also work.

In that area the people have learned to wear a mask on the back of their heads to give the impression to a tiger that they are facing the animal. Bengal tigers are reluctant to attack from the front. This simple deterent has proved successful in both saving the lives of people and of tigers by preventing revenge attacks.

Cows with eyes on their backside
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Cows with eyes on their backside

It seems that Neil Jordan, a scientist in Botswana is doing something similar with respect to the lion in Africa. He is experimenting with a novel way of saving farmers’ cows from lion attacks. He is ensuring that eyes are painted on the rumps of the cows. This gives the impression to the lion that the cow is facing him/her.

Neil Jordan hopes that this will trick the lion and indeed other predators, who try to sneak up on the livestock, into believing that they have been spotted. This, it is believed, will be enough for the lion to abandon the hunt.

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“The idea is to get into their minds and disrupt the hunting process”

Dr Jordan works as a conservation biologist with the University of New South Wales and Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The idea he says is to hijack animal signals and to use them for the benefit of lion conservation.

This is about lion conservation because farmers routinely shoot or poison lions and other predators to protect their cattle from attack. This is one of the more serious reasons why the lion population on the African continent has fallen from about 200,000, a hundred years ago, to around 20,000 today.

Dr Jones’s research is being conducted in the Okavango Delta. The farmers there initially laughed at the suggestion that they should paint eyes on the rumps of their cows. However, as they were so desperate to prevent attacks by lions and other predators they agreed to give it a try.

Over a 10 week trial in 2015 Dr Jordan painted 23 cows and all of them survived. By contrast, three cows from a herd of 62 which had not been painted were killed and eaten.

The advantage of this very simple process is that it is just that, simple and not high-tech. This is an important aspect of this conservation process, as you might imagine, because it is hard to introduce high-tech conservation into the middle of the African continent.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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5 Responses

  1. M E King says:

    I know that workers going into tiger infested areas wear a mask on the back of their heads.
    My question with the cows is how long have they been doing this and what is the chance of predators adapting to this. I can see it working long term if other diversion tactics are employed.

  2. Susan Gort says:

    Great idea!

  3. Dee (Florida) says:

    Genius. Saves live all around.

  4. Good Idea * makes perfect sense, a simple process that works.
    Eva say’s

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