Translocation of OPL-24

OPL-24 in Torra Conservancy during reported conflict issues.

Following a series of human-lion conflict incidents in #Khoadi-||Hoas Conservancy, the decision was taken by researchers and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to translocate the problem-causing lion, OPL-24 of the Uniab pride. This operation was performed safely during the nighttime hours of 5 February, 2024.

The translocation was done following the lion’s killing of one horse and two cattle near the Leeukop area during daytime hours. Rather than see the lion destroyed, MEFT staff and the Lion Rangers put forth considerable resources for this translocation – which was based on best available science, including guidelines set-forth by a 2022 publication by Becker et al. and an in-depth knowledge of lion movements and pride dynamics within the northwest lion population.

Translocation is certainly not a cure-all for human-lion conflict and is only attempted when an assortment of other conflict interventions have been attempted, such as Lion Rangers patrolling the area and Rapid Response Teams chasing the animal from farms with vehicles. This is not the first translocation of OPL-24. During September 2023, this lion killed three goats and sheep near the Avante Pos farm of the conservancy while these livestock were grazing in the hills during the day. At that time a short-notice translocation was attempted into the Palmwag Concession – the lion walked back to the area after approximately five months. A second translocation, based on applying some of the lessons learned from the first one, was considered to have a high chance of success and represented the best option for OPL-24’s survival in the wild.

Following the operation, overseen by MEFT Veterinary Services and Game Capture staff, the lion was released in the lower Hoanib River. Within a matter of hours he met up with the unaccompanied female XPL-114. The two were seen mating shortly thereafter. In the following days OPL-24 killed no fewer than two adult giraffe and appears to have settled comfortably into his new area. Ongoing monitoring by the Lion Rangers and MEFT Sesfontein should help minimize the likelihood of further human-lion conflict. To ensure community buy-in, members of the translocation team met with Sesfontein Conservancy leadership to explain the justification for moving the lion. Generally, community buy-in has been forthcoming. The conservancies of #Khoadi-||Hoas and Sesfontein should be recognized for their willingness to live with these dangerous animals. MEFT is thanked for the considerable efforts and resources expended on short notice to see this operation successfully completed.

OPL-24 and XPL-114 near the Hoanib, February 2024.

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