It is the peak of the dry season and many farmers are feeling the pinch of the drought. This year has been particularly dry and as a result many of our local farmers have had to abandon their crops, because there is just no water for irrigation. With no crops, our in-field mitigation trials are less easy to conduct, and those we conduct on our own farm with leftover crops as bait have slowed almost to a stop.
Despite this, we are continuing to work hard with a few of our trials, whilst getting really stuck into environmental education in the local community, catching up on A LOT of photo tagging and some data analysis.
One of the mitigation trials we are still managing to conduct is combining the use of sound effects alongside field guards to try and reduce crop raiding by primates.
The use of field guards is the most commonly used method in many wildlife crop raiding areas. It is a very simple method, involving people chasing raiding animals away from the crops, and does not involve any significant outlays of money or materials. It does however have its drawbacks. On large commercial farms, one guard is likely to have little effect on reducing raiding and more guards obviously increases costs. Primates are able to wait around for an opportunity to raid for many hours because the benefits of one raid can far outweigh several hours of foraging in the bush. This means that guards must be in the fields during all daylight hours whenever crops are vulnerable, to have any chance of success.
During Leah’s PhD, she tested how motion-activated sounds might be used to deter baboons from crop fields. As you can see from the two videos below, initially the method worked, but after about two to three weeks the baboons habituated to the sounds, which then no longer frightened them. We now want to test the motion-activated sounds combined with a field guard, who, by chasing baboons out of the crops after a sound plays, adds a real risk to the sounds, which should decrease habituation and make primates more wary about raiding.
To assess this deterrent we are collecting baseline data on primate raiding and field guarding behaviours without sounds being played, which we will compare with observations of the same behaviours with sounds being played. This will give us a good overview of how regular guarding behaviour impacts raiding, and then how the sound/guard combination plays out.
Watch this space for our results!