An artist in Spain has created a unique way to solve the age-old problem of keeping hungry wolves away from tasty sheep. His invention is called the “Ultrasonic Flock Protection System” and the latest version has been unveiled and is ready for testing. Will pigs be jealous?
Sheep were domesticated in Central Asia 10,000 years ago and brought to Europe around 6000 BC. Humans began spinning wool around 3500 BC and, by 1000 AD, England and Spain were the centers of sheep production. Queen Isabella of Spain used money from the country’s wool industry to finance Christopher Columbus and other explorers.
Some might say humans are the true enemy of sheep but the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) is easier to blame. They once roamed the entire Iberian peninsula, keeping the wild boar population down when not eating deer, rabbits and, when humans encroached their territory, an occasional sheep. The Spanish government wiped out the Iberian wolf population in the 1950s and 1960s, except for a small number in the northwestern part of the country where – you guessed it – the main sheep population is.
It takes an artist to come up with a way to keep sheep and wolves apart without extermination of one of them. In 2006, Fernando García Dory developed a solar-powered sheep collar that emits an ultrasound frequency inaudible to sheep and humans that drove wolves away from the flock. He tested it at a shepherd school located in the National Park of Picos de Europa in northern Spain and found the range was too limited to be effective.
Nine years later (things move slowly in sheep country), he finally raised the funds to make the necessary improvements and unveiled Bionic Sheep 2 at an arts and science festival in London. With help from a nuclear engineer (don’t worry – no nukes are involved), he boosted the range to 20 meters (70 feet) and reduced the size. Dory hopes to bring the collars to market soon at a price of 40 euros ($44.50).
Will the “Ultrasonic Flock Protection System” convince wolves to stay away and shepherds to invest? Dory says shepherds are interested but wolf-haters are fighting it. Dory shows his artistic side as he describes his challenge:
From the frozen tundra where Sami reindeers graze, to German prairies to Portuguese remote mountains, the war between wolf and shepherd is increasing, with it, worldviews and ecosophies’s clash. There is a gulf between the re-wilding ideology and deep ecology, on the one hand, and social ecology and agroecology ideas on how to solve culture-nature frictions, on the other.
Maybe a bionic collar for wolves that emits sounds that keep humans away (the music of Meat Loaf perhaps?) would help.