Aub Pride in the Mountains

Lioness XPL-144 in Omatendeka, April 2024.

A recent spate of decent rains have brought green grass to much of northwest Namibia. This is a boon for farmers and their livestock, as well as prey species such as springbok and mountain zebra. For the desert-adapted lions it can mean lean times, when prey move from prides’ core ranges. While prey species follow the rains to find available grazing, lion movements can be much more conservative, as George Schaller noted in his seminal study of lions in Serengeti. Thus, northwest Namibia’s rainy season can be a period of flux and relative uncertainty for the desert-adapted lions.

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New Publication: Population Survey

Lioness NPL-34, December 2022.

Results from the first comprehensive desert-adapted (northwest) lion population survey have been published as a peer-reviewed article by the African Journal of Ecology. The survey provides an important baseline for Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and area lion researchers as we work together for the sustainable management of the desert-adapted lion population. The journal article has been made available to any interest readers by the University of Minnesota Lion Center, who covered the Open Access publication fees.

Of particular interest is the role of the Lion Rangers, whose Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) was indispensable to the successful execution of the survey. An important part of the survey was the use of repeatable, community-centered methods to help build local custodianship over the lion population.

The survey publication can be read here.

SMART Global Congress and Lion Rangers Training

Lion Rangers showing off their new shirts at Mowe Baai.

March was a busy month for the Lion Rangers program. From 10-14 March, program leadership attended the inaugural SMART Global Congress, hosted by the SMART partnership and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism MEFT) in Windhoek. From 16-27 March all the Lion Rangers attended our annual training in Skeleton Coast National Park at Mowe Baai. During training the Rangers gained skills in household accounting and refined their abilities in using the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) which is an important part of their work monitoring wildlife and limiting human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia.

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Northwest Lion Population Survey Report

Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has endorsed the official report from the Northwest Lion Population Survey. This report is the culmination of more than two months of field work by 45 Lion Rangers and MEFT staff, and months of review and analysis by researchers to set a much-needed population baseline for free-ranging lions in northwest Namibia. By being endorsed by MEFT management, the results and recommendations from the survey become part official policy in terms of managing human-lion conflict on communal lands.

A complete copy of the report is available for download here. Thanks to all our supporters who helped ensure the successful completion of the population survey. The Community Conservation Fund of Namibia is particularly recognized for its leading role in supporting the survey.

Researcher’s Report: Human-Lion Conflict

Lioness XPL-103, December 2022.

During the preceding months, a certain number of lion mortalities stemming from human-lion conflict have been recorded on communal lands in northwest Namibia. Critical examination of conflict incidents by researchers are yielding new insights into when, where, and seemingly why, lions come into conflict with farmers in northwest Namibia. Of particular note has been the role of the Lion Rangers in limiting conflict where Rangers are consistently deployed, and the need for upscaling the performance of the Rapid Response Teams. At its most broad, lion conflict appears to lead to lion mortalities when collared animals move into unfamiliar farming areas.

This short report has been provided to Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and can be downloaded here.

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.

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Hobatere Cubs

The Hobatere pride has been growing in the past year-plus. Monitoring by the Lion Rangers and MEFT shows the pride consists of three adult females (OPL-6, OPL-9, and OPL-10), two adult males (OPL-19 and OPL-20) and no fewer than eight cubs. The oldest two cubs are the offspring of OPL-10 (“Nalaili), likely sired by the brothers OPL-7 and OPL-8, who departed Hobatere in about March 2022. Around that time OPL-19 and OPL-20 immigrated from Etosha and took over the pride. They have likely sired the remaining cubs.

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Northwest Lion Population Survey Overview

OPL-27, Omatendeka Conservancy

The Northwest Lion Population Survey took place from 6 November 2022 to 6 January 2023. This was the first comprehensive count of lions inhabiting northwest Namibia. An overview of the survey’s outcomes was recently published in an online version of the annual Conservation and Environment in Namibia magazine. This overview outlines the process and results of the survey. Highlights include the estimated northwest lion population of 57-60 adult individuals, and low density, estimated at 0.11 lions/100 sq. km.

The complete version is available here.

A full report of the Northwest Lion Population survey has been submitted to Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) management for comment. It will be made available by MEFT in due course.

SMART Rangers

A Lion Ranger views a desert-adapted lion in the Kunene Region.

The Lion Rangers use cutting-edge mobile technology to keep an eye on the desert-adapted lions of northwest Namibia. In this year’s Conservation and the Environment in Namibia magazine, Lion Rangers Program Coordinator Mathilde Brassine explains how the Lion Rangers are using the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) to monitor lions and other large carnivores and help limit human-wildlife conflict.

A full version of the article is available here.