African wildlife fear humans more than lions

Katharina Moser
African wildlife fear humans more than anything else - even more than Africa's apex predator, the lion.
The lion will probably have to give up its title as king of the proverbial jungle, a new study has shown that was recently published in the magazine Current Biology. According to this, humans cause greater levels of fear in animals than lions and other natural predators.
The study focused on animals at waterholes in South Africa's Kruger National Park and their response to various sounds in close proximity. The following sounds were compared: lions hissing and growling; women and men who speak calmly in the local language; hunting sounds; and control sounds from non-predators. All were broadcast at the same volume (60 dB) from about 10 meters away.
"The loudspeaker is activated when the animal walks by. It then hears this sound for 10 seconds, so we can see what the animal was doing before it heard the sound, what it does when it hears the sound, and also what it does after the sound stops," said lead author Liana Zanette, who studies the ecology of fear at Western University in Ontario, Canada.
The research found that animals such as giraffes, leopards, zebras, warthogs and hyenas were twice as likely to flee from human noises as from lion noises. They also left waterholes 40 percent faster in response to human stimuli than to a lion encounter, or even to barking dogs or hunting sounds such as gunfire.
"Our findings reinforce the growing experimental evidence that wildlife worldwide fear the human 'super predator' far more than other predators," the researchers said.
The new findings could also have implications for the tourism industry in Africa, where knowledge of the enormous Animals' fear of humans could be used for a better understanding of their behavior and for more animal-friendly tourism.