Now this one is a real kickass idea by a conservation biologist to protect cattle from African lions. Just paint eyes on cattle's butts, and you can keep off the predators.
"As protected conservation areas become smaller, lions are increasingly coming into contact with human populations, which are expanding to the boundaries of these protected areas," says Dr. Neil Jordan, a conservation biologist from UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science.
The reason is quite interesting. When they make "eye-contact" with the butt eyes, the lions will assume that the prey has seen them and will decide to move on, without a surprise element. The lions will think their intended prey has seen them.
Now this is not nutty science. It is really psychological trickery that is called "iCow", invented by Neil Jordan of the University of New South Wales in Australia. By drawing eye-like patterns on butterfly wings, it is possible to keep away predatory birds.
Jordan says that Indian woodcutters wear masks on the backs of their heads, which helps to ward off hungry tigers.
The idea hit him when he was working in a village in Botswana, and found that two lionesses were killed by local herdsmen for killing their cattle. The farmers did not have any other methods to protect their cattle.
Reports say that local killings have brought down the population of the African lion. Its numbers have plunged from over 100,000 in the 1990s to between 23,000 and 39,000 today, says the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT).
"Lions are ambush hunters, so they creep up on their prey, get close, and jump on them unseen," he said.
However, Jordan saw that when a lion found an impala spotting the lion, the predator gave up his attack.
Hence, he collaborated with BPCT as well as the local farmers on a 10-week trial study. By drawing eyes on the butts of one-third of the 62 cattle, he and his team again counted the animals after they came back. He found that just three cattle had been killed by the lions, and none of them had the eyes on their rumps, while the other cows lived through it.
Now Jordan has returned to Botswana with GPS devices to assess the movement of predators as well as prey. "This will give us information about the exposure of painted and unpainted cows to predation risks, and where the conflict hot spots are," he said.