For more than three weeks, the Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers monitored a ‘problem lion’ near the Mbokondja farm. This male, age 6-8 years, killed two small stock in January and had since taken-up seemingly permanent residence nearby the farm. Clearly this worries the area’s residents. Teaming closely with IRDNC and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Anabeb’s Lion Rangers worked around-the-clock for three weeks to monitor this lion and prevent further livestock losses. While this lion has been well-known to Desert Lion Conservation’s Dr. Philip Stander who had collared it long before, the collar unfortunately had ceased to respond. Due to Dr. Stander’s extensive responsibilities in the vast Kunene, he had been unable to re-dart the lion and reactivate the collar in past months.
The Lion Rangers are a newly reactivated program employing experienced conservancy-appointed residents to monitor a conservancy’s lions and mitigate and prevent human-lion conflict (HLC). They are part of a multi-pronged approach to foster greater community involvement in lion management and ensure that communities play a substantive role in mitigating and preventing HLC.
This program has grown in response to MET’s call for a comprehensive northwest HLC management plan, which was released last September. Responding to public pressure, MET recognized that HLC in the western Kunene conservancies has become untenable. One positive outcome of this plan has been a series of social-ecological surveys of farmers in the conservancies of Anabeb, Puros, and Sesfontein. These surveys have quantified livestock losses to carnivores and identified HLC ‘hotspots’ – areas where problems with lions are particularly acute. One such hotspot so-identified was the farm Mbokondja. This incident with the problem lion serves as a preliminary ‘proof of concept’ that these surveys, when combined with ecological information, can be a useful tool for identifying areas facing a high likelihood of HLC.
With input from the Lion Rangers, MET took the always unfortunate decision that this lion at Mbokondja would have to be destroyed. Thankfully, a team headed by the Lion Rangers, and with critical input from IRDNC, Desert Lion Conservation, and authorization from MET ensured that this was done safely and for conservancy benefit.
While it is saddening that this lion needed to be removed, it is heartening to see what coordinated management can look like. Hopefully this will serve as a model for coordination in addressing HLC going forward in Kunene.
Hats off to the Anabeb Lion Rangers, IRDNC, and MET for a job well done in difficult circumstances.
Anabeb Rangers: Ronald Karutjaiva, Linus Mbomboro, and Phineas Kasaona