Automated Behavioural Response System (ABR)

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ABR Experiment in Uganda
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Deer Experiment in Georgia
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ABR Experiment in Eswatini
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Cougar Experiment in California
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Raccoon Experiment in BC, Canada
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Badger Experiment in UK
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ABR Experiment in South Africa

For a great 4-minute Nature of Things video summary of our work, click here! We developed an Automated Behavioural Response system (ABR) comprising a custom-built motion-sensitive speaker system that can be paired with any commercially available camera trap, providing the means to conduct playback experiments directly testing the behavioural responses of any species that can be ‘caught’ on a camera trap. The ABR provides the ability to experimentally test virtually any animal anywhere, 24 hours per day, without the need to have an observer present; creating vast new opportunities to explore the behaviour of rare or nocturnal or potentially dangerous species, as well as those with an aversion to humans, which our ABR experiments are showing – appears to be most species (visit our Collaborations page for details).

Our Upgraded ABR Model: Collaborations Welcome

We built our original ABR model (Mark 1) in 2015 and tested it in Uganda, and then developed a second model (Mark 2) and tested it in British Columbia (Canada) and California (USA) as detailed in our paper describing the ABRs [PDF]. We have since vastly upgraded the ABRs and are now using a Mark 4 system, which possesses programming permitting broadcasting of playbacks sequentially, randomly, at scheduled times, or sequentially or randomly within scheduled times. Moreover, the Mark 4 now produces amazing HD videos (as shown below). The experiments described under the Collaborations tab which we conducted in South Africa, Eswatini, Georgia (USA), Sweden, and Australia were all accomplished using Mark 4 ABRs. We received a large grant to obtain 100 Mark 4 ABRs, and are happy to collaborate with anyone on their use anywhere. To contact us concerning collaborating in use of our ABRs, please send us an email.

Where we have Conducted Experiments with the ABR Our Newest Model (Mark 4) of ABR in South Africa

Our ABRs Featured on Nature of Things with David Suzuki!

Examples of ABR Footage

Below are some fun example videos from the ABRs from California, USA (cougar), and Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa (others).

VOLUME WARNING: Sounds of playbacks and the vocalizations of wildlife (especially the elephants) can be quite loud! Enjoy!

Highlighted News

New Current Biology paper:
Fear of the human "super predator" pervades the South African savanna

Wildlife's fear of humans far exceeds even the fear of lions!

Video of giraffe, leopard, hyena, zebra, kudu, warthog, and impala running in response to hearing humans.

Video of elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife reacting to humans and lions.

Lions have long been seen as the world’s most fearsome predator, the “king of beasts”. Recent global surveys show humans kill prey at much higher rates than other predators, meriting humans being termed a “super predator”. We report experimentally demonstrating that fear of humans far exceeds even that of lions throughout the savanna mammal community in a premier African protected area; strengthening the evidence that fear of the human “super predator” pervades the planet. Paramount fear of humans adds to our global environmental impacts as fear itself can reduce wildlife numbers.