The lion’s roar

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Every lion has its own individual roar.

A lion’s roar is an impressive sound: it can be as loud as 114 decibels (equivalent to a chainsaw), and the creatures can recognise the roars of other individuals, even when they are several miles apart. Now a team of scientists has used sophisticated recording devices to pinpoint the variations that make this possible. In a study in Zimbabwe, five male lions were fitted with acoustic accelerometers, to record the full spectrum of the sounds they generated. Researchers from Oxford University analysed these recordings, then trained a pattern-recognition algorithm to “learn” the signature of each lion. In tests involving a series of roars, it was able to identify which lion had produced them with 91.5% accuracy; it achieved similar results from recordings taken later, in the bush.

The hope is that conservationists will be able to use the algorithm to identify and track lions in the wild. “The ability to remotely evaluate the number of individual lions in a population from their roars could revolutionise the way in which lion populations are assessed,” said Andrew J. Loveridge, of the Oxford team.  (The Week 31 Oct  2020).

Phew!  So it’s safer to visit Africa!  I’ve been waiting.

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