Conditioned food aversion mediated by odour cue and microencapsulated levamisole to avoid predation by canids
Antonio Juan García-Fernández
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Worldwide, predators and humans are in conflict for resources such as game species or livestock, especially in the case of wild canids. One non-lethal method to reduce predation is conditioned food aversion (CFA), in which animals learn to avoid a food due to the illness after ingestion, caused by the addition of an undetected chemical compound. CFA can be enhanced by adding an artificial odour cue, in a process known as taste-potentiated odour aversion (TPOA). We tested CFA and TPOA with three experimental groups of penned dogs. Food was offered with a combination of microencapsulated levamisole + vanilla odour (ODO), microencapsulated levamisole (LEV), or plain food as a control. The aims were (a) to test whether dogs detected the microencapsulated levamisole, (b) to analyse the strength and extinction time of CFA induced by microencapsulated levamisole, and (c) to analyse the strength and extinction time of TPOA. Two-choice tests were carried out during 11 post-conditioning months, and two reinforcements with microencapsulated levamisole were performed during the first post-conditioning month. In the first post-conditioning test, ODO and LEV groups ate significantly less untreated food than control group. After reinforcement, the dogs in LEV group resumed eating the food. Three of four dogs in ODO group showed long-lasting CFA until the 11th month. These results show that TPOA could be used to induce odour aversion on canids and that the odour cue overshadows the slight bitter taste of microencapsulated levamisole. These results show TPOA as a promising tool to reduce predation by wild canids.