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SCARED: Human boo deadlier than lion’s roar for African savannah animals, study finds

An image of a lion roaring—Reuters/file

In a study conducted in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, it was discovered that animals are more fearful of human voices than the roars of lions. 

Researchers deployed hidden speakers at water holes in the park and played recordings of people speaking normally. Astonishingly, approximately 95% of the animals exhibited extreme fear and hastily fled the scene. Conversely, recordings of snarling and growling lions triggered significantly less alarm among the wildlife.

The human speech included in the experiment encompassed local languages commonly spoken in the region. Intriguingly, some elephants, upon hearing the lion’s calls, even attempted to confront the presumed source of the sound. 

These findings suggest that the park’s diverse animal population, including antelopes, elephants, giraffes, leopards, and warthogs, has learned to associate human presence with extreme danger, possibly due to hunting, firearms, and the use of dogs in pursuit.

Remarkably, this fear of humans extends beyond Kruger National Park and mirrors a global trend where wildlife tends to regard humans as more formidable threats than any other natural predators. This presents a significant challenge for areas dependent on wildlife tourism, as the very visitors they seek to attract inadvertently scare off the very animals tourists come to witness.

However, the study also hints at the potential to protect vulnerable species in these ecosystems. When used judiciously, human-generated sounds could serve as a tool to deter illegal poaching.

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