Greetings from Lion Rangers Training! From 15 to 29 April, Lion Rangers from across Kunene came together at the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism‘s (MEFT) Waterberg Environmental Centre for bi-annual Lion Ranger training. With support from MEFT, the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia, and TOSCO, this training primarily focused on developing the Lion Rangers’ capacities in assisting law enforcement.
As the eyes, ears, and boots on the ground of their communities in the Kunene Region of northwest Namibia, the Lion Rangers provide valuable first-person perspectives on the safety and security of their conservancy’s natural resources. Particularly with the economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wildlife crime poses a particular threat within Kunene. To ensure not only their own safety and security, but that of their communities and natural resources, it is an important part of the Lion Rangers’ work that they understand how to identify possible criminal activities, and assist, when appropriate, law enforcement. Such highly specialized skills require specialized training. During two weeks at the Waterberg Environmental Centre, the Lion Rangers benefitted immeasurably from the expertise and instruction of Theunis Petersen, a long-serving law enforcement and anti-poaching official with MEFT specializing in combatting wildlife crime.
Modules which the Rangers were instructed upon included discussions on the illegal predator bone trade, understanding the perspectives and motivations of poachers, practical crime scene assessment, integrating new cloud-based technologies into Ranger patrol work, and a K9 unit presentation to understand the role of dogs in combatting wildlife crime.
In addition to law enforcement training, the Lion Rangers also received additional training on the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), led by Program Leadership Team member Mathilde Brassine. This training covered theory on SMART and its use around the world as a conservation tool, how to enter the required information when starting a patrol, how to record human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and other observations (lion sightings, other live animal sightings, tracks, scats/dung, etc), how to take pictures in SMART, how to export data, what the data looks like when received on SMART desktop, what reports include as well as basic training on how to use the smart phones and the solar power banks.
Nadja LeRoux from the Cheetah Conservation Foundation also presented on the challenges to conserve and mitigate HWC of cheetahs and African wild dogs and farming methods to reduce losses to predators including the uses of Anatolian guard dogs.
We also celebrated two birthdays at training! A very Happy Birthday to Daniel Tjivahe and Kavekaetua Tjauira!
The Rangers were uniformly enthusiastic about the material covered at training, and, in particular, with the opportunity to travel to the Waterberg Environmental Centre and get exposed to an area beyond Kunene. Thanks to all the supporters who helped make training possible.