Cattle freely graze in the Hyrcanian forest of northern Iran and suffer high losses to leopards, what leads to retaliatory killings and conflicts between local people and conservation.
The collar is a wide leather belt reinforced with metal spikes and studs and having a lock with D-rings to prevent theft. It is fit on the neck very easily, like a regular belt, and fastened and locked on the nape.
We conducted a 14-month randomized controlled test to see how collared (treatment) and uncollared (control) cattle belonging to the same owners differ in leopard-caused mortality. No collared cattle were lost, whereas uncollared cattle used to be killed by leopards as usual. Each of 27 owners had collared and uncollared cattle in nearly equal proportions.
We do not know yet how these collars protect cattle (neophobia or learned experience) as this requires a special telemetry study of leopard and cattle movements.
Leopards cause significant losses to people in northern Iran by killing cattle and other livestock. As leopards and other felids kill their prey by throat bites which block the windpipe and cause suffocation, we decided to fit local cattle with leather protective collars and see how they work. Local husbandry of cattle includes only night sheds, but animals are often left overnight in the forest. No herding is used. Therefore, collars can be the most practical way to protect cattle from leopard attacks.
CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS
Close cooperation with local people and conservation authorities
Professional and dedicated team
Frequent monitoring to maintain contacts with livestock owners and assist troubleshooting
Cattle grazing in forest should always stay collared. However, collars should be removed from those cattle which winter in cowsheds as leopards do not trespass here. When indoor-wintering cattle are going to be released into the forest in spring, they should be collared again and this needs careful attention by the research team