Watch How Animals React to the Scariest Sound on the Savanna

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Panting after chasing the impala now in its jaws, a leopard drags its prey to a shady spot beside a water hole. Before it can sit down to feast, a voice, seemingly out of nowhere, begins speaking calmly. “It is very difficult to talk in Afrikaans …,” begins the bodiless voice. The leopard pauses, glances toward the source of the sound and then drops its hard-earned quarry and runs.
This leopard has unwittingly abandoned its lunch in the service of science. Researchers analyzed thousands of video recordings to reveal a hierarchy of fear in a suite of mammals living in and around Kruger National Park in South Africa. While lions have been nicknamed the king of beasts, the videos show that for wild mammals on the savanna — from tiny antelopes to massive elephants — the scariest, most lethal predator of all is us.
The sound of human voices, the researchers found, evokes more fear than the sounds of snarling and growling lions. This underlines that our species is recognized as uniquely dangerous, “because we are super lethal,” said Michael Clinchy, a conservation biologist at Western University in London, Ontario.
The researchers hope that understanding this universal fear of humans could assist the goal of preventing wildlife poaching.

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