Population Survey Week 2: The Hoanib

Group of three desert-adapted lions near Ganamub riverbed, Sesfontein Conservancy.

The Northwest Lion Population Survey continues with all teams focusing on the ephemeral Hoanib riverbed and adjacent landscape in Sesfontein Conservancy and the Palmwag Concession. Long considered a source of the desert-adapted lions, the Hoanib subpopulation is one of the best known in Kunene. However, questions remain about unknown and uncollared individuals in the area. Additionally, because the Population Survey is aiming at near-comprehensive coverage of the landscape, the Lion Rangers and MEFT are also using it as an opportunity to better understand lion spatial ecology and movement corridors.

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Population Survey Week 1: Coast and Mountains

Desert-adapted lioness, XPL-150, photographed by Team 1.

The Lion Rangers and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism staff, in partnership with the Namibia Lion Trust and IRDNC are completing the first week of the Northwest Lion Population Survey. Focusing on the core wildlife areas of the Puros Conservancy, this first week emphasizes some of the most remote areas lions are known to frequent in Kunene. Its not an easy way to start, with so much mountainous territory to cover, but it is important that desert-adapted lion landscape is covered comprehensively.

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Northwest Lion Population Survey

Desert-adapted lioness, XPL-114, overlooking the Hoanib riverbed.

The first-ever Northwest Namibia Lion Population Survey is underway! Overseen by MEFT, and bringing together researchers, government practitioners, and community Lion Rangers, the primary goal is developing a baseline population estimate, through repeatable methods, to serve as the foundation for evidence-based lion management. Northwest Namibia is among the few areas worldwide where human land-use and positive lion conservation outcomes align, a baseline population survey is critical to securing and managing the lion population going forward. The survey contributes to community-centered lion conservation, as well as insights for regional and pan-African lion conservation.

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Monitoring and Collaring

Desert-adapted lioness, OPL-4, Ombonde Research Area.

An important part of continuous monitoring of the desert-adapted lions is ensuring GPS/satellite collars stay up to date. Collars become damaged and batteries run low, necessitating upkeep and replacement. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and with support from GEF and WWF-Namibia, the Lion Rangers have been actively re-collaring lions around the Ombonde Research Area over the past week. The purpose of these activities are both to continue ongoing research of the desert-adapted lions, as well as ensuring proactive management of human-lion conflict, which remains the number one cause of mortality for non-cub lions in northwest Namibia.

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Cameras to Limit Conflict

Trail camera photo of male and female lion, Hobatere Concession.

Among the challenges for pastoralists maintaining livestock herds in northwest Namibia, is the varying forms of land-use. While pastoralists keep their herds on mixed-use land, these can abut conservation concessions. For many conservancy members farming in Ehi-rovipuka and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies, the Hobatere Tourism Concession has long served as a refuge for, and source of, lions and other large carnivores. When lions depart Hobatere for communal farmlands, they run the risk of coming into contact with livestock. This can lead to human-lion conflict, resulting in retaliatory or preventative lion killing by certain pastoralists. An important part of the Lion Rangers’ work is assisting the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) in keeping tack of lions as they move in and out of Hobatere. At the request of MEFT the Lion Rangers Research Team has been helping monitor lion movements and group dynamics through the use of trail cameras in Hobatere. Over the past month groups of lions, including new cubs (!) were photographed within Hobatere, along with some other important images that are contributing to evidence-based conservation in the area.

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Replacing Collars in Hobatere

Infrared photo of four lions eating plains zebra, Hobatere Concession

As the dry season deepens, humans, livestock, and wildlife are on the move in northwest Namibia. This potentially brings lions and other predators into contact with pastoralists in new areas. In the Ehi-rovipuka farming areas west of Hobatere Concession, farmers and their large herds of goats and sheep have recently moved back from wet season grazing areas. To limit the possibility of human-lion conflict, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has prioritized replacing inactive collars within Hobatere. Two lionesses in particular, known as OPL-9 and OPL-10, are the only known lions currently inhabiting Hobatere without active GPS/satellite collars.

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Happy World Lion Day, 2022

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The Lion Rangers and numerous other programs across Africa take each 10 August to reflect on the past year and the ongoing challenge of lion conservation. There is still much work to be done, but we believe great progress is being made. Thanks to everyone who has dedicated their lives, time, and resources, to the worthwhile venture of ensuring a future for free-ranging lions.

Above are some of our favorite recent photos of some of our favorite lions from Kunene.

Wildlife Credits for Lions – Community Meetings

Over the past week, a technical team composed of the Lion Rangers’ Leadership Team, in partnership with IRDNC Coordinators and WWF-Namibia Program Staff, met with core lion-range conservancies in Kunene. The agenda is developing an innovative new program to pay communities for living sustainably alongside lions. This program is called Wildlife Credits and will be an important part of demonstrating to communities the commitment of the international conservation community to recognizing the work of Africans conserving lions.

Wildlife Credits is an innovative form of paying communities for conservation performance. Unlike the majority of past conservation programs, where donations come as money or equipment with the promise of performance, Wildlife Credits supports existing work where, in this case, communities are already conserving their wildlife. It is an incentive-based performance system to reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation, while recognizing that conservation must be economically competitive. Within Namibia this program is being spearheaded by NACSO and CCFN.

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Camera Deployment; Plus an Unexpected Elephant Encounter

Lioness, photographed by trail camera in Hobatere.

An important part limiting human-lion conflict is knowing which lions are using which areas. As communal farmers return to dry season grazing areas of eastern Ehi-rovipuka, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is taking the lead on ensuring lions inhabiting the Hobatere tourism concession are not endangering pastoralists’ livelihoods. In partnership with the Lion Rangers, MEFT is overseeing an intensive trail camera deployment in Hobatere. This not only provides movement and demographic information on lions and other species, but helps MEFT and Lion Rangers assess which lions are using the area, and with what frequency.

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Collaring in Anabeb

Dr HO Reuter and Lion Rangers with immobilized desert-adapted lioness in Anabeb Conservancy.

Responding to two separate groups of young uncollared lions in Anabeb Conservancy, the Lion Rangers, in partnership with IRDNC and the Namibian Lion Trust, and under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, engaged in an intensive collaring operation of two separate groups, totaling thirteen lions, this past week.

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