Each year, the second half of May is set-aside by conservationists in northwest Namibia for the annual Northwest Game Count. The focus of this operation is to inform conservancies and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism of wildlife numbers for the purposes of adaptive resource management. The NW Game Count is the largest and longest-running road-based game count in the world, the Lion Rangers are always pleased to participate.
The game count takes place on communal and government-managed lands and is comprised of four distinct sub-areas: conservancies south of the veterinary control fence, conservancies north of the fence, the tourism concession areas of Etendeka, Hobatere, and Palmwag, and Skeleton Coast National Park. Conducted annually, the game count covers nearly seven million hectares and is undertaken as a joint exercise between conservancy members and staff, as well as NGOs, all overseen by MEFT.
While the arid environment of northwest Namibia can lead to boom-and-bust cycles of rainfall and available grazing affecting wildlife numbers, the game count helps conservationists and wildlife managers make sense of anecdotal observations throughout the rest of the year.
Of particular concern over the past decade has been reduced rainfall across the region. Drought and drought-like conditions have coincided with an approximately 65% reduction in wildlife number across the region. While 2022 saw reasonably good rains return to the northwest, adequate rainfall failed to materialize across much of the region in 2023. Impressions from field staff performing the count in Palmwag Concession, Skeleton Coast, and certain lion-range conservancies indicate prey numbers continue to struggle, though good recruitment from 2022 was evident in some areas. We look forward to this year’s results as they will inform our approaches to community-based lion conservation.