Predator Protection Device
In many parts of the world, predation of livestock by predators such as wolves, lions, or hyenas leads to retaliation by the impacted farmers. Retaliation can mean the death of the offending animal, the death of scapegoat species, or the indiscriminate poisoning of wildlife in the hopes of removing the offending predators. None of these solutions are sustainable, so researchers around the world are pursuing non-lethal alternatives to predation management. The University of Notre Dame’s CSE students are tackling this problem in Kenya where lions are the nuisance predator attacking livestock in their corrals at night. Currently employed solutions for predation management include improved livestock corral design, the use of mixed herds so that animals like donkeys can protect sheep or goats, and the use of disruptive stimuli. Disruptive stimuli work by startling the predator as it approaches the livestock, but current electronic disruptive stimuli suffer from a problem called habituation, which is when an animal gradually grows more immune to the effect of the stimulus. We are therefore developing an electronic deterrent that can stave off habituation for as long as possible or even avoid it completely.
The Predator Protection Device (PPD) is our effort to provide an electronic disruptive deterrent that can greatly increase the time until predators habituate or even avoid the effect completely. To scare the predators, the device is designed to emit sounds and lights in an effort to mimic a human presence. To address the issue of habituation, these effects occur at random times and can be updated if the predators start to exhibit habituation. The initial versions of the device can be seen in the following pictures [insert pictures 1-3 here
The development process for this device has pushed our teams to the limits of their abilities and we have learned a lot along the way. The first two versions of the device were hobbled by their energy efficiency and poor ruggedization, but we were still able to collect over 120 days of data over two phases. The types of animal interactions from these two phases are found in [pictures 4,5]. We found that hyenas were, by far, the most frequent visitors and there was only a single attack on a protected boma by a lion. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is a steep decrease in attacks from before the PPDs were deployed. We are now developing a third iteration of the PPD that will have greatly increased energy efficiency and ruggedization. We have also been able to decrease the cost per device greatly from the previous generation. Some pictures of the current prototype can be found below [pictures 6,7]