New Paper: The History of Lions in Etosha

Lioness near Ombonde Research Area, 2021.

Historical lion information from northwest Namibia is scattered across a variety of sources. This provides an often incomplete picture of the history of lions and human-lion interactions in the region. As part of our ongoing research to better understand the past, present, and possible future(s) of humans and lions living alongside one another, Lion Ranger co-founder John Heydinger recently partnered with eminent lion researchers Craig Packer and Paul Funston, to write the history of lions in Etosha National Park. This article has recently been published by the Namibian Journal of Environment.

(The full article is available here)

Unifying archival and limited-circulation documents with unpublished government reports, this history provides the first-ever comprehensive population assessment of lions in Etosha from the early twentieth century to the present. Foregrounded in this history is the changing infrastructure within the park, as well as the means and methods of government conservationists to study, understand, and manage the Etosha lions. The abstract is excerpted below:


This article offers an historical overview of how colonial-era politics affected changing infrastructure in Etosha National Park, Namibia, and the subsequent effects on lions and prey species populations in the park. The article argues that infrastructure development, particularly the erection of perimeter fencing and construction of artificial waterholes, during the apartheid era, had lasting effects on lion and prey species’ population numbers. The article also provides the first comprehensive historical account of lion numbers in Etosha, drawing from a variety of archival and published sources, and the first published account of historical recorded lion mortalities on farmlands bordering Etosha. By linking social and political factors to long-lasting environmental outcomes, the article provides historical evidence relevant to contemporary wildlife managers seeking to incorporate a variety of social, political, and ecological factors into management of large-bodied wildlife.

Thanks to the editors at the Namibian Journal of Environment for publishing this work.

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