Active Defense in Nature: Lions Forced into “Landscapes of Fear”

The Journal of Applied Ecology has featured a study of predator behavior based on perceived risk.

…it is now well recognized that predators can impose strong top-down controls on ecosystems. What is less recognized is that even top predators live in landscapes of fear too…

Photo of Lion and Human PrintsLion and Human Prints by jit bag on Flickr, CC

The conclusion seems to be that people could be more effective managing risk if they better learn how to influence their threats. The following gives an interesting perspective on hack back (or active defense, etc.). Not only can the Lions be trained to avert and avoid humans and their assets but the humans have to also adjust (e.g. reduce their attack surface).

…if the behavior of the predators can be manipulated then the same should apply to the herders and their livestock. Herders need incentives to be more diligent during periods when depredation is most likely and keep their livestock within the zones that predators are induced to avoid. Livestock need to be allowed to develop their own landscapes of fear, which is impossible for the continually mixed and moved herds on public rangelands in the western USA, for example, where depredation by wolves is an increasingly contentious issue. Finally, the indigenous prey base has to be conserved or else large predators will have no future anyway.

The Human-Lion Conflict Toolkit, available from the Central Kalahari Lion Research (CKLR), will have to be updated. The CKLR also mentions “until beef-farming Africans and later Europeans moved in, humans were able to live quite well alongside the massive predator”.

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