Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Zanette, Liana Y.


Humans’ exploitive killing of virtually every mammal species globally may result in a perception of humans as feared, ultra-lethal predators. In Africa, mammals are central to the continent’s tourism industry; however, it is largely unknown whether African mammals fear the presence of tourists. Firstly, I aimed to review how the presence of humans on the landscape affects African mammal behaviour. Of 31 studies, most authors reported that humans alter mammal behaviour in a manner that may negatively impact survival. To test if a fear of humans can pervade communities, I simulated the presence of humans, hunting, lions, and birds using an Automated Behavioural Response system. I recorded fleeing responses of 26 South African mammal species and found that the community fled most to human voices, especially when heard where hunting occurs. My results demonstrate that human presence induces a greater community-wide fear response than the presence of their natural predator.

Summary for Lay Audience

Humans are experienced and skilled hunters that, when combined with advancements in technology, are capable of killing most types of mammals from large elephants to small mice. Yet, researchers do not fully understand the mechanism of how or why hunters, or humans in general, change the behaviour of these animals. Namely, do these animals fear us? This question is particularly important in Africa, as some African governments rely heavily on the income from wildlife-based tourism. After searching through all available scientific papers, I found 31 articles where researchers studied how humans can change the behaviour of mammals in Africa. Most articles reported that humans not only change the behaviour of African wildlife but do so in a way that may reduce their chances of survival. To test if humans can change the behaviour of multiple safari animals with hunting and tourism activities, I manipulated fear in 26 mammal species (such as elephants, giraffes, and zebra) with sounds of gunshots, dog barks, human voices, and snarls of their main predator – the lion, and then videotaped how often they ran away. To determine how fearful these mammals were to these sounds, I compared their behaviours to how often they ran away from a fifth sound of a harmless bird call. Out of all five sounds, mammals ran away from human voices the most, telling us that humans induce more fear than lions, dogs, or gunshots. Also, these mammals ran more to human voices in an area where hunting is legal than an area where hunting is illegal, which tells us that mammals change their behaviour depending on how often hunting occurs. Overall, I show that humans can induce fear in entire communities of mammals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Friday, December 01, 2023