Thu, 13 May|
Saved by the Smell: Using Chemical Signals to Protect Predators and Livestock
BY DR PETER APPS BIOBOUNDARY LABORATORY, BOTSWANA PREDATOR CONSERVATION TRUST Date: Thursday 13 May 2021 Time: 14h00 Venue: Online. A link will be sent to those that RSVP. RSVP by 12h00 on 10 May 2021 to Dr Yvette Naudé @ firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 012 420 2517.
Time & Location
13 May 2021, 14:00
About the event
Botswana Predator Conservation’s BioBoundary Project is developing new ways of
mitigating human-predator conflict, by using artificial equivalents of the predators’
chemical signals to keep them away from livestock, or safely inside protected wildlife
areas https://www.bpctrust.org/project/bio-boundary-project/ .
To produce artificial chemical signals, we need to know the composition of the real
ones, and which of the hundreds of compounds that make up mammal odours are
actually sending the messages we need to replicate,
GC-MS analysis very quickly yields long lists of components, but no hint as to which of
them are biologically relevant. Taking a reverse engineering approach and looking for
compounds that fit the specifications for a long-lasting, stable signal can provide some
clues; for example, two sets of lactone stereoisomers in African wild dog urine would fit
the design criteria for a stable, long-lived multi-component chemical signal.
Another approach is to compare materials that send chemical signals with those that
do not – but that depends on a detailed understanding of what is a scent mark and
what isn’t. The discovery in 2015 that African wild dogs communicate with their
neighbours by scent marking at specific repeatedly-used sites was a breakthrough in
our understanding of what qualified as a wild dog scent mark. However, it meant that
our previous analyses of faeces and urine collected without reference to locality – and
so, as far as we can tell with hindsight, mostly not from marking sites and not containing
messenger compounds, all need to be done again with samples collected specifically
form marking sites.
The third approach is to test scent components individually or in simple mixtures to see
what the animals respond to. That needs animals and the chemical signals to defy the
orthodox view that mammal chemical signals are all complex mixtures, and that is
exactly what we see; using a combination of controlled release odour dispensers and
camera trapping we record single components and simple mixtures eliciting the intense
sniffing and scent marking which would be expected in response to natural scent
marks. Some of them also repel predators, including leopards, spotted hyaenas, blackbacked
jackals and caracals, which are the four most serious livestock killers. These
repellent effects will allow us to mitigate human-predator conflict by keeping predators
away from livestock with chemical “no trespassing” signs.