Lion Rangers in the Sesfontein and Puros Conservancies have been hard at work over the last few weeks managing a difficult conflict situation. The male lion XPL-131, who normally inhabits the Hoanib riverbed, has gone on something of a walkabout further east through the Giribes Plain, towards the homesteads of the Gomatum riverbed area. Not normally a conflict-causing lion, Lion Rangers Rodney Tjivara, Steven Kasaona, and IRDNC Rapid Response Team Leaders, Allu Uararavi and Cliff Tjikundi have been working tirelessly to ensure this lion does not develop any bad habits, or cost the local farmers livestock. This has long been a farming area and is far afield from the core wildlife areas of Sesfontein and Puros.
Driving through the area riverbeds, trekking over mountains, and spending many long nights deterring the male’s incursion into farms, these Lion Rangers know the area incredibly well, and have been combining their extensive expertise – more than 50 years of field work between them – to monitor and manage the situation. As a last resort, when lions come too close to homesteads the Lion Rangers make use of fireworks to startle and scare the lions from the area.
Prior to their arrival, one cow was attacked in the area. Luckily the cow escaped and the Lion Rangers arrived early the next morning to help herd the injured animal back to safety.
Since 22 February, XPL-131 has covered a massive amount of territory – more than the home ranges of most lions across Africa. The challenges of working across this terrain cannot be overstated. Tjivara, Uararavi, and Kasaona, all local residents, know these mountains, plains, and riverbeds extremely well, and can even anticipate where lions and other species will travel through the landscape.
These past few weeks are just one case, in a long line, of the Lion Rangers and other local conservationists working tirelessly to ensure the success of Namibia’s community conservation program, and the persistence of the desert-adapted lion population.
The rains have finally come to northwest Namibia! One of the reasons keeping track of XPL-131 has been such a challenge recently is that the Kunene Region has experienced the best rains in the past five years. After months of anticipation, rainfall in the mountains along the escarpment has opened up new highland grazing areas. Rainfall in the western Etosha area has led to rivers running all the way to the sea. The Huab has been flowing through the Torra Conservancy, and the Grootberg area was recently described by Craig Packer as looking like “the Ireland of Namibia.”
Hopefully these rains will catalyze a boom population of prey species this year. In addition to monitoring the desert-adapted lions, the Lion Rangers and other conservancy staff will be watching recruitment levels very closely this year.