BackgroundAnimals typically show less habituation to biologically meaningful sounds than to novel signals. We might therefore expect that acoustic deterrents should be based on natural sounds.
MethodologyWe investigated responses by western grey kangaroos (Macropus fulignosus) towards playback of natural sounds (alarm foot stomps and Australian raven (Corvus coronoides) calls) and artificial sounds (faux snake hiss and bull whip crack). We then increased rate of presentation to examine whether animals would habituate. Finally, we varied frequency of playback to investigate optimal rates of delivery.
Principal findingsNine behaviors clustered into five Principal Components. PC factors 1 and 2 (animals alert or looking, or hopping and moving out of area) accounted for 36% of variance. PC factor 3 (eating cessation, taking flight, movement out of area) accounted for 13% of variance. Factors 4 and 5 (relaxing, grooming and walking; 12 and 11% of variation, respectively) discontinued upon playback. The whip crack was most evocative; eating was reduced from 75% of time spent prior to playback to 6% following playback (post alarm stomp: 32%, raven call: 49%, hiss: 75%). Additionally, 24% of individuals took flight and moved out of area (50 m radius) in response to the whip crack (foot stomp: 0%, raven call: 8% and 4%, hiss: 6%). Increasing rate of presentation (12x/min ×2 min) caused 71% of animals to move out of the area.
Conclusions/significanceThe bull whip crack, an artificial sound, was as effective as the alarm stomp at eliciting aversive behaviors. Kangaroos did not fully habituate despite hearing the signal up to 20x/min. Highest rates of playback did not elicit the greatest responses, suggesting that 'more is not always better'. Ultimately, by utilizing both artificial and biological sounds, predictability may be masked or offset, so that habituation is delayed and more effective deterrents may be produced.