Site visits: Ombonde, Khowareb, and Hoanib Rivers – 17-21 June, 2018

Over the past week the Lion Rangers were joined by Garth Owen-Smith and Craig Packer for site visits to the Ombonde, Khowareb, and Hoanib rivers in the Etendeka Concession, and Anabeb and Sesfontein conservancies. The site visits had a host of purposes, chief of which was to have a better sense of lion movements throughout the area.

Garth Owen-Smith, who has been instrumental in the development of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) in northwest Namibia guided our small group through the various catchments. A veritable fount of information on the region, Owen-Smith provided insight from his deep experience to help us better understand the long-term trends effecting northwest lion conservation. In particular, Owen-Smith’s longstanding close relationships with the local communities allowed us to better understand the long legacy of local antipathy towards lions, but also the strong identification of rural residents with wildlife and the need for conservation. Owen-Smith remains a key supporter of the work of the Lion Ranger program.

Professor Packer is advising the Lion Ranger program and was struck by the difficulty of monitoring lions in the rugged Kunene Region. Packer’s experience in monitoring lions in the Serengeti brought a practiced eye to the problems facing communities in northwest Namibia. In particular, Packer emphasized the importance of integrating on-the-ground community-focused work with high-level research on the lion population. The whole group recognizes the importance of information sharing with critical stakeholders such as the conservancies and NGOs working in the area. We are currently working with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to develop Ministry-led protocols for lion monitoring and information dissemination. Stay tuned!

Thanks so much to Owen-Smith and Packer for taking the time and lending their vast expertise to the issues facing lion conservation and rural communities in northwest Namibia. Many long nights around the fire brought out critical issues that need addressing and thoughts on positive ways forward. We are making great progress.

You can learn more about the organization Garth Owen-Smith and his partner Dr. Margaret Jacobsohn founded at irdnc.org.na

Learn more about Professor Packer’s work at https://cbs.umn.edu/research/labs/lionresearch

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