Good fences make good neighbors

By Esteban Páyan, Ph.D.

Some of the ranches outside of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, had recently experienced jaguar predation against their water buffalo. Since the attacks, we started testing new anti-predator techniques, including specially designed electric fencing, to try and protect stock.

The Asiatic water buffalo is usually an effective anti-predator strategy in itself, since these beasts still retain a natural defensive behavior from having evolved with the constant threat of living with tigers in Asia.

Normally when faced by a potential threat, females surround their young and close a circle facing out, while the bulls search and confront the threat, such as a jaguar or tiger, bellowing and stomping their feet. But at this particular ranch, that wasn’t happening because of the intensive industrial husbandry of the ranch, which separates weaned animals (1-2 yrs) from the herd.

This separation makes the younger animals vulnerable because the group defense system breaks down without the experienced adults in the herd, a condition that a local jaguar had learned to take advantage of. To mitigate this, Carlos Valderrama, Panthera’s human-jaguar conflict expert in Colombia, worked with the ranch to install specially designed electric fencing to discourage the jaguars from entering paddocks with young water buffalo. So far, it seems to be working, and camera trap footage showed a jaguar walking on the far side of the fence without attacking the livestock.

A success!

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