Scientists are painting eyes on cow butts – and it’s saving lions!

It’s true!

One of the biggest threats to lions in Africa is people. Well, of course it’s people – people are the only threat. Specifically, farmers. Because farmers keep cattle, cattle are their livelihoods – literally the difference between life and death for many people – and lions eat cows.

Close up of a lion sat among some rocks

Scientists are using a bizarre idea to save lions. What unusual ideas could you come up with if you had the support?

Not very many cows, but when you have hardly anything to begin with, one cow is too many.

It’s really easy for us to sit here in our comfortable western homes, with all the food and drink we want and need, and pass judgement on these African farmers… but we don’t have a clue. Not a clue what it’s like to struggle daily in a harsh environment.

So simply swanning up and telling these guys not to kill lions, even to protect their cattle, ain’t gonna work.

What the lions need is a fucking brilliant, weird, “never gonna work” idea. So scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia stepped up. See, scientists pay attention. It’s kinda what they do. They look closely at things, to see how they affect other things, and measure all the things.

And one of the things they noticed when they were thinking about how to protect lions was this: lions give up the hunt when the animal they’re hunting looks at them.

(Talk about an extreme example of observation changing an entire course of action.)

Lions hunt by ambushing their prey; they get right up close and personal, then pounce like ninjas.

One biologist was watching a lion hunting an impala — but the impala spotted the lion and as soon as Leo noticed he’d been noticed, he gave up.

If lions are being watched by their prey, they stop hunting them.

Hence the eyes on cow butts. After all, if you’re a lion and your chosen cow butt is looking at you, you’re going to think twice about pouncing, right?

This makes sense when you think about butterflies. Butterflies — and other insects — have fake eyes on their wings to ward off predators. It’s extremely effective… but it’s never been tried in large animals before. And it seems to work.

The researchers went to Botswana and painted eyes onto 20-odd cow butts in a herd of 62. Over 10 weeks, 3 painted cows were killed by lions and no unpainted cows were. This is admittedly a small sample size, but they’re going to carry out further tests.

Fingers crossed for the lions, right?

How about you? What problem do you have in your business that you’re struggling to solve? Have you tried a fucking brilliant, weird, “never gonna work” idea instead?

Or even just a slightly twisted idea, one most people won’t bother with?

Would you like a book full of things to avoid and great advice, to give you a hand with that?



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.

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Sounds pretty good, right? Fancy it?

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