Human-wildlife conflict is a major driver of large carnivore population decline throughout the world. Preventing contact and promoting coexistence between livestock and carnivores are conservation priorities, but effective strategies remain elusive. Furthermore, the potential application of signals in deterring predators from livestock areas and reducing livestock predation has rarely been considered.
I aim to find out whether signal-based mitigation tools can be used for livestock-carnivore conflict prevention in northern Botswana. Specifically, in the livestock-large predator conflict zone, I am investigating whether lion (Panthera leo) vocalisations and scents:
a. induce avoidance behaviour in sub-ordinate large predators (wild dogs, Lycaon pictus; cheetahs, Acinonyx jubatus; leopards, P. pardus; spotted hyenas, Crocuta crocuta);
b. influence dominant large predators (lions) to avoid areas where signals are displayed (especially itinerants and dispersers), by replicating a lion territorial boundary; and
c. increase prey vigilance (livestock) and/or promote avoidance of areas.
I am also investigating whether a visual deterrent signal (intimidating eye pattern) painted onto cows will prompt ambush predators (lions, leopards) to abandon their hunt, reducing predation of painted cows relative to unpainted cows. This research represents an important step in understanding the behavioural and movement dynamics of large predators and livestock. Locally-applicable mitigation tools for human-wildlife conflict are desperately needed to reduce livestock predation and retaliatory culling by farmers. Ultimately, the results would assist in the conservation of large predators throughout Africa and all over the world.