The i-cow project involves painting eyes on the rear of cows in Botswana in an attempt to reduce the risk of them being attacked by leopards and lions, and therefore also reduce conflict between predators and farmers. The project will test the theory that ambush predators like lions, can be tricked into thinking they have been seen by their prey and abandon the hunt. Dr Neil Jordan, a Conservation biologist at Taronga Western Plains Zoo is currently on the ground in Botswana testing this theory.
Update from Dr Neil Jordan in the field
So far to date we have made 10 cow collars and deployed these on the first herd with the help of a research assistant and the farmer. At the same time we painted 20 cows, approximately half the herd.
Two days before we painted the cows and put on their collars, two calves were attacked and killed by two lions within two kilometres of the cattle post.
We have also had news that the chief of the village has agreed to participate in the project, he has 60 head of cattle that are situated directly at the wildlife-livestock interface. His herd has suffered from a high rate of attacks by predators.
The conflict between livestock and wildlife is ever present, just a couple of weeks ago a hippo carcass was found surrounded by 104 dead vultures, many of them endangered White-backed Vultures. The carcass had been laced with poison most likely in an attempt to kill predators in the area. This is an increasingly common occurrence and is threatening many species of vulture with extinction, as well as threatening carnivore populations. The same technique of poisoning carcasses is also being used by poachers to conceal their activities, as they are aware that anti-poaching patrols may use may use circling vultures to indicate the location of a carcass on the ground.
Conflict remains a huge issue and is taking a hefty toll on wildlife. Having a sustainable non-lethal solution is the only real hope here.
The project is expected to last approximately a year, with results continuing to come in across this timeframe.
By Dr Neil Jordan in Botswana