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Nature’s Fear Factor

A bold experiment to bring fierce African wild dogs back to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique reveals how predators – and the fear they trigger – play a surprising and crucial role in keeping wild ecosystems healthy. Until recently, the impact of predators was thought to be simple: predators eat prey, keeping their populations in check. But ecologists are realizing that it’s not all about consumption. In fact, just the presence of predators can cause significant changes in behavior. Scientists call this the “Landscape of Fear,” and in Gorongosa, they are hoping to harness its effects to help bring an ecosystem back from the brink. Are the wild dogs up to the task of creating a “landscape of fear?” Will Gorongosa be a new foothold for the survival of their species? Or, despite all best efforts, will they succumb to the dangers lurking in their midst? Gorongosa’s future may hang in the balance.