This seminar was given by Professor Russell Hill from the department of Anthropology at Durham University. He is also a member of the Predator and Primate Project, which is supported by the Earthwatch institute and Durham University.

The landscape of fear is the way in that wild animals that are considered ‘prey’ species use the environment around them to reduce the risk of being predated upon. The focus of this seminar was on how Vervet (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and Samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis) use this ‘landscape’ to evade predators.

The research was undertaken in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa and involved analysing the different alarm calls that both species use when they detect a predator in their vicinity. As both species produce different alarm calls depending on the predator that has been seen, it is of interest to researchers to see which predators activate the ‘landscape’ most frequently and if there is a difference between the two species in the frequency of alarm calls and which predators activate them. The predator species that were studied were Snakes, Leopard (Panthera pardus) and Eagles.

The results of the study showed that the two species had different landscapes of fear and would respond differently when faced with threats.

Vervet monkeys are semi-terrestrial, and were found to have their landscape ‘activated’ by leopards. This is because they spend time on the ground, so are more likely to encounter leopards than eagles due to the fact that eagles hunt from the air and usually take their prey directly from the tree due to the canopy making hunting something that is on the ground difficult.

Samango monkeys were found to react strongest to aerial predators such as eagles. This is because they are an arboreal species and as a result, have little to fear from ground dwelling predators.

An interesting finding was that the research team found that the vervet monkeys moved further from covered areas and spent more time on the ground when the researchers were present. Professor Hill theorised that this was because leopards usually avoid humans, so the monkeys were using the humans as protection from the leopards.

My thoughts

I had learnt about the landscape of fear already during my time in Bangor, nevertheless I found this seminar to be incredibly interesting as it was discussed in more detail, as well as implying that humans can unwittingly impact on species by interfering with it.

Whilst I personally have little interest in the study of animal behaviour and do not see myself working in that particular field, I still found this seminar to be incredibly interesting as it allowed me to reflect on the fact that humans can impact on the behaviour of animals without realising it.

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