Painted Cows

Innovative problem solving
With most of the news these days focused on COVID, elections, wildfires, and riots it is easy to forget there are other problems in the world. Like African cattle ranchers losing cows to lions! Not much of a problem for American ranchers.  
In a joint effort between Australia and Botswana a team of scientists worked to reduce the number of Botswana cattle eaten by lions and other big predators. Their solution; paint eyes on the rear ends of cows. Probably not the first idea that jumps to mind.
The team stole a strategy often used in nature (especially butterflies) of patterns to confuse predators. The theory is ambush predators (like lions) often abandons an attack if they think they are spotted. The four year study showed the painted cows are far less likely to be attacked by lions than non-painted cows, in fact not a single painted cow was killed during the study. Published in “Communications Biology” it highlights a better solution than killing predators or fencing.
For the Lean Six Sigma folks this case study highlights a few key points when problem solving. 1) Balancing priorities so solutions don’t create more problems, like extinction of lions on the ecosystem or fencing’s impact on animal migration. 2) Benchmark solutions already in use, no need to re-create the wheel. Many species use patters to resemble something they are not to avoid being eaten. 3) Use three criteria when selecting a solution…cost of implementation, speed of implementation, and impact on the problem. Painting eyes on a cow’s rear end is low cost, can be implemented immediately, and has a significant impact on the problem. Compare that to installing hundreds of miles of fence.
Note – the team recognized the lions could get smart the ruse and attack sometime in the future, at which time a new strategy will need to be developed. For now, it is working and Botswana cattle ranchers are losing fewer cows to lion attacks and the lions are not being hunted to save cattle.
Hope you enjoyed, take care, and be well, Erik