This initiative consists of painting eyes on the hindquarters of cows to scare off predators that ambush them from behind like lions.
Working with Botswana Predator Conservation and local herders, we painted the cattle of 14 herds that had recently suffered lion attacks. Over four years, a total of 2,061 cattle participated in the study.
Before coming out of their night pen, we painted about a third of each herd with an artificial eye patch pattern on the rump, a third with simple crosses, and left the remaining third of the herd unmarked. We did 49 painting sessions and each lasted 24 days.
Individuals painted with artificial eye spots were more likely (statistically) to survive than unpainted or cross-painted control cattle in the same herd.
None of the 683 painted "eye cows" were killed by ambush predators during the four-year study, while 15 (of 835) unpainted cattle and 4 (of 543) painted cross cattle were been killed.
These results confirmed our initial intuition that creating the perception that the predator had been seen by the prey would cause it to give up the hunt.
One of the main possible limitations is that the predator can get used to this lure over time, more or less quickly depending on the context and the individual.
This is why it is often recommended to combine several initiatives to minimize the chances of predator attacks on livestock.
Very original and simple idea!
A recent study by Radford and colleagues (2020) concludes that artificial eyespots significantly increases the survival of cattle, and thus “applying artificial marks to high-value livestock may therefore represent a cost-effective tool to reduce livestock predation”.
Here’s the link to the paper: https://rdcu.be/b8EPm