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The lion may be the king of animals, but he is not the most feared living creature on the African savannah.

The human, the

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An elephant from Kruger National Park, South Africa.

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Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from of a written text.

For many wild African mammals, the sound of human voices is more terrifying than that of the lion, the continent's top predator, shows an experiment by a team led by Canadian biologist Liana Zanette of Western University in London , in Ontario.

Using speaker systems and cameras equipped with motion detectors, the scientists played different recordings to animals coming to drink at a watering hole located in the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.

These recordings included:

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Biologist Liana Zanette poses with an automated behavioral response system used to record videos of animals reacting to the sounds of humans and lions.

Analysis of the video recordings collected made it possible to observe the reaction of 19 species of mammals and to evaluate the time elapsed before they don't leave the watering hole.

These species included the elephant, zebra, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhino, warthog, but also other predators such as the wild dog, leopard and hyena.

The experiment thus made it possible to determine that it was not the lion, but the human who aroused the greatest fear, in no less than 95% of the species studied in this study published in the journal Current biology (New window) (in English).

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Animals are twice as likely to run away when they hear human voices as when they hear lion vocalizations. They leave the watering hole 40% faster. The magnitude of the difference is quite extreme, explained Liana Zanette in an interview on ICI Radio-Canada's show Les Années Lumière.

A similar reaction has even been observed in other carnivores.

From small antelopes to elephants, leopards and hyenas, they are all more afraid of humans than lions.

A quote from Liana Zanette, biologist, Western University

Biologist Liana Zanette compares elephant reactions to human voices and lion vocalizations.

Elephants recognize the danger associated with lions because they eat baby elephants, but adults are able to defend themselves against lions. In comparison, they recognize that humans are predators, but know that they have no means of defense against them, notes the biologist.

The best strategy in this situation is to run away, and that's exactly what they do.

A quote from Liana Zanette, biologist , Western University

The researcher believes that this work shows the importance of the repercussions of human presence in the environment on a global scale.

Our results highlight the considerable ecological impacts of human presence on the management of protected areas and the conservation of wildlife, such as that of wildlife tourists, particularly in Africa.

A quote from Liana Zanette, biologist, Western University

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Lions approach tourists who photograph them from safari vehicles.

The researcher believes that the fear of humans in the mammal community is further evidence of the impact of Homo sapienson the environment, like climate change and loss of habitat for animals. According to Liana Zanette, it becomes important, with this new knowledge, to start thinking about the ecology of fear for conservation purposes.

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