Dedication and hard work pays off!
This past weekend at Wereldsend saw the First Annual Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger Awards (GOSCARs). Generously supported by the Namibia Chamber of Environment, these awards, to honor the memory of the late Garth Owen-Smith, recognize and celebrate the local conservationists who work and walk in the field to ensure the future of Namibia’s natural resources. Honorees exemplify the original concept with which Namibia’s internationally-recognized community-based natural resource management program started: hard work, dedication, and a commitment to unifying rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation.
The Lion Rangers program was eager to nominate our own Rodney Tjavara, who works with Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO), for this prestigious award. We are overjoyed that Rodney’s years of hard work have been recognized by Namibia’s wider conservation community.
Read Rodney’s full nomination statement below:
“For more than seven years, Rodney Tjavara has been focused on ensuring the community-based conservation of Namibia’s iconic desert-adapted lions. First with Dr. ‘Flip’ Stander of Desert Lion Conservation in limiting the human-lion conflict of the iconic ‘Five Mouseketeers’. Rodney then assisted IRDNC Rapid Response Team Coordinator Cliff Tjikundi, moving across Puros, Sesfontein, Anabeb, and Torra conservancies to help capacitate and train the re-activated Lion Rangers. Now Rodney works as a TOSCO Human-Lion Conflict Rapid Response Ranger, stationed nearly permanently at Leyland’s Drift in the Hoarusib River, where he takes primary responsibility for limiting conflict between Puros farmers and the newly-identified ‘coastal-roaming’ lions.
Among the original Lion Rangers, first activated in 2014, Rodney began as Dr. Stander’s boots on the ground. He was immediately thrust into the role of monitoring lions around his home farming area of Tomakas. Since that time, Rodney has been a foot-soldier in the best sense of the word: providing crucial reports and updates from the field, walking to actual and potential human-lion conflict sites, whether they be in the ephemeral riverbeds or in the rugged mountains of Kunene.
In the years since Rodney has gone from strength to strength. He has grown to a position of trust and responsibility. Helping train other Rangers in such tactics as lion identification and ecology, safely approaching lions in the field, assisting with collaring and translocations, Rodney has not only developed skills important to those working on the frontlines of lion conservation, he is helping pass that knowledge on to an emerging generation of young conservationists.
Among the great challenges of working with desert-adapted lions is the vast area these animals cover in Kunene – often across incredibly inhospitable terrain. From the remote waterpoint of Okongwe, down to the Hoanib base of Amspoort, and up to the Shipwreck Lodge near the mouth of the Hoarusib, Rodney has made western Puros well-known to him. Here he demonstrates that working with and around lions is both a day and nighttime responsibility. Hours are long and erratic. Said one of our project partners when asked about Rodney’s commitment:
Lions back in the Hoarusib after 10 years are a real asset… Rodney has proved to be our champion. We can always rely on him to patiently monitor the Early Warning System which informs him of the lion locations, waiting for the lions to enter a no-go zone, and then to react that they go no further. Many days and nights, alone, in a remote area, but this task he has made his personal responsibility!
Rodney exemplifies the work of the Lion Rangers and the spirit of the GOSCARs. He has dedicated his adult life to conserving the desert-adapted lions by working and walking in the field; by teaching and training the next generation of CBNRM practitioners; by ensuring relevant information is communicated to researchers and program leaders to limit human-lion conflict. He is knowledgeable and trusted when it comes to assessing lions and human-lion conflict. This comes from the hard-won and dedicated experience of a life in the field. The Lion Rangers are proud to make Rodney Tjavara our first nominee for the GOSCARs.”
Rodney was honored, along with Torra Conservancy Rhino Ranger Marthinus Sanib (left), ||Huab Conservancy Rhino Ranger Hans Haoseb (right), and Salambala Conservancy Field Office Thalubengwa James Nandu (far right), at a celebration at Wereldsend Environmental Center on 7 April, 2022. Our most heartfelt congratulations and thanks to these four, who are helping realize the dream of community-based natural resource management in Namibia. We are humbled and inspired by their dedication.