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Big carnivores, including tigers, cougars and wolves, instill fear in the prey animals hunted by them. It has turned out that fear is needed for an ecosystem to thrive the way it must.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, a latest study has studied the role played by fear in wildlife ecosystems and discovered that, though it looks unpleasant, it's a must. Wildlife communities have been pushed out of whack because the huge carnivores wanted to implant that fear have been dying like never before.
The main focus of the study was on a population of raccoons present on British Columbia's Gulf Islands. The site is unique because of the absence of huge carnivores. There are no bears, wolves, or any other predator at the peak of the food chain, due to which the raccoons have wreaked chaos on the animals left there.
The researchers played recorded voices of predators, such as dogs barking, and the raccoons responded accordingly. They consumed notably less.
The concept is called the ‘landscape of fear’, and it's been there for so many years, however, the study is the first one to throw light on the same experimentally by manipulating fear itself in free-living mesocarnivore (raccoon) populations with the help of month-long playbacks of huge carnivore vocalization resulted in the effects that reached to the bottom of the food chain.
The researchers wrote that their findings have reinforced the need of conserving big carnivores, considering the notable 'ecosystem service' their fear provides.
The study lead author, Justin Suraci, told the Seattle Times, “It’s interesting. The very fear that we’re suggesting is so beneficial to ecosystems is the same as the fear that [caused] carnivores to get killed off in the first place”.