Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



The normal behaviors of animals can disrupt human activities, resulting in human wildlifeconflict. In South Africa, nocturnal crop raiders are a significant source of human wildlifeconflict for farmers. Major nocturnal pest animals are Cape porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) and bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus). Although methods of deterring animals from agricultural areas have been explored, nocturnal crop raiding remains difficult to mitigate. Most research studies focus on deterring non-human primates and elephants, but methods that may be successful in deterring such larger mammals are not necessarily effective at discouraging smaller, nocturnal crop raiders. This study examined the efficacy of a motion activated, multimodal scarecrow apparatus at discouraging nocturnal crop raiding behaviors in two study sites in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The scarecrow consisted of an orange flashing light and an iPod with speaker that played a 20-second sound file (randomly selected 26 sound files). Motion activated cameras recorded animals for up to 120 seconds per capture, and behaviors were recorded using an ethogram. I predicted that the multimodal scarecrow would decrease the duration of destructive behaviors (feeding and foraging) performed by nocturnal animals. Further, I predicted the multimodal scarecrow would cause the animals to run in response. If animals did not leave following the activation, I predicted the animals would perform more looking events as an indication of vigilance. Although eleven species were identified, only sample sizes for bushpig, Cape porcupine, and genets (Genetta) were sufficient for analysis. All three species spent significantly less time feeding and foraging following the scarecrow activation. Mean feeding and foraging time for bushpig prior to the scarecrow activation was 15.44 s out of 20 s, compared with a mean of 7.11 s out of 20 s following activation (N = 27, P = 0.00066). Cape porcupine participated in feeding in foraging behavior for a mean of 14.25 s before the scarecrow and 11.00 s after (N = 12, P = 0.046). Genet, which were not differentiated by species, spent an average of 15.14 s feeding and foraging before the scarecrow was activated, and a mean of 8.0 s after activation (N = 7, P = 0.028). Only the sample size for bushpig was sufficient for analysis of running, which occurred significantly more often upon the activation of the scarecrow (N = 15, P = 0.0003, one tailed). The frequency of looking events was not significantly influenced by the scarecrow mechanism (for all samples, P > 0.05). Although the scarecrow was not shown to increase vigilance in terms of frequency of looking events, it was successful in reducing the duration of destructive feeding and foraging behaviors, as well as causing bushpig to run away from the study sites. The motion-activated scarecrow mechanism provides a promising way to combat nocturnal crop raiding in bushpig, Cape porcupine, and genet, though further research must be conducted to examine long-term efficacy of the scarecrow.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Michael Stokes


Agriculture | Other Animal Sciences | Zoology