Researchers in New Zealand spread misinformation – in the shape of endangered shorebird smells – to deter predators from attacking vulnerable wildlife, without resorting to baiting, trapping, or shooting them.
By misleading predators regarding the shorebirds’ nesting period, half of the nests were saved. Consequently, chick production was 1.7 times higher in sites where the experiment was conducted than in unmonitored areas. Thanks to this technique, the population of plover could potentially increase by 75% over 25 years.
How did they manage to fool predators? By adding nest-like odors – made from feathers and preen glands from chickens, quails, and gulls – to Vaseline and smearing the mixture on hundreds of rocks on two 1,000-hectare study sites every three days, for three months, five weeks before the actual nesting period. Attracted by the scent, predators would come, then leave upon realizing that it didn’t lead to birds. Eventually, they would lose interest in the sites altogether!