Monday, March 5, 2012

Teaching Lions To Dislike Beef.

How do we teach a wild carnivore to avoid doing something that comes naturally?

In Africa, people have been turning grasslands and savanna into cattle farms, pushing aside lions' natural prey such as zebras and wildebeests. But instead of migrating together with the prey, the lions normally resort to the surrogate prey item--the cattles. And this is where the problem comes.
When a lion attacks a cattle, people's livelihood gets affected, and some might even get hurt should the lion wanders too far. To solve the problem, farmers often shoot or poison the problem animal, which further exacerbates the lions' predicament. Lion population has dropped from 450,000 animals 50 years ago to as few as 20,000 today. Without any holistic approach to revive their numbers, the King of the Jungle could go extinct in as little as 10 to 20 more years.
Denver Zoo research associate Bill Given began a research on lions on September 2011 at Grassland Safari Lodge in Botswana, where several problematic lions were kept. The lions had previously slain cattle but were captured before farmers could kill them. The research, which was funded by the Colorado-based nonprofit WildiZe Foundation, aimed to teach lions to dislike beef.
That's just like teaching me to dislike beef. How inhumane.
Given and his team of researchers gave eight of the cats meals of beef treated with the deworming agent thiabendazole in doses large enough to make them temporarily sick to their stomachs. “It basically causes a bad case of indigestion,” WildiZe founder Eli Weiss told The Aspen Times. 
After a few meals of treated beef, the lions were once again offered untreated meat. Seven of the eight refused to eat it, while an eighth actually refused to eat at all for a short period.--

Predators that experienced discomfort after consuming toxic prey would develop an aversion towards the taste and scent of the prey, just like a defense mechanism to prevent such discomfort from recurring in the future.
So teaching a carnivore to resist instinct is possible after all. Time to teach my cat to dislike meat.


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