Removal of Problem-Causing Lion

View of arid Kunene Region, Namibia.

Following intensive monitoring and conflict mitigation by the Lion Rangers and other project partners, the difficult decision was taken for the male lion XPL-131 to be removed from the communal areas of Puros and Sesfontein. This decision, undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), at the repeated request of the local communities, was not undertaken lightly, but done so in accordance with Namibian Law (No. 4/1975), prioritizing human-safety when all reasonable human-wildlife conflict mitigation options have been exhausted. The Lion Rangers, local communities, and MEFT, take the responsibility of safeguarding Namibia’s wildlife incredibly seriously.

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New Paper: The History of Lions in Etosha

Lioness near Ombonde Research Area, 2021.

Historical lion information from northwest Namibia is scattered across a variety of sources. This provides an often incomplete picture of the history of lions and human-lion interactions in the region. As part of our ongoing research to better understand the past, present, and possible future(s) of humans and lions living alongside one another, Lion Ranger co-founder John Heydinger recently partnered with eminent lion researchers Craig Packer and Paul Funston, to write the history of lions in Etosha National Park. This article has recently been published by the Namibian Journal of Environment.

(The full article is available here)

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Monitoring and Conflict Avoidance

XPL-131 in near the Hoanib riverbed. Photo: A. Uararavi

Lion Rangers in the Sesfontein and Puros Conservancies have been hard at work over the last few weeks managing a difficult conflict situation. The male lion XPL-131, who normally inhabits the Hoanib riverbed, has gone on something of a walkabout further east through the Giribes Plain, towards the homesteads of the Gomatum riverbed area. Not normally a conflict-causing lion, Lion Rangers Rodney Tjivara, Steven Kasaona, and IRDNC Rapid Response Team Leaders, Allu Uararavi and Cliff Tjikundi have been working tirelessly to ensure this lion does not develop any bad habits, or cost the local farmers livestock. This has long been a farming area and is far afield from the core wildlife areas of Sesfontein and Puros.

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New Paper: Communities Living with Lions

Desert-adapted lioness near Hoanib riverbed, April 2019.

One of the challenges for communities living alongside lions is to quantify the costs lions impose. There are many programs that account for the monetary costs of livestock losses, but how does one account for the other costs? If the goal is to proactively limit human-lion conflict, rather than simply compensate people after livestock death, conservationists need to innovate ways to account for the day-to-day costs of living with lions, even during the best of circumstances.

A new paper, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center and WWF-Namibia, looks at the potential opportunity costs of living alongside the desert-adapted lions.

(See full paper here)

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Patrols Across Kunene

Lion Rangers and NLT staff on patrol in Ehi-rovipuka, December 2021.

The holidays are an especially important time for the Lion Rangers. While the rest of Namibia is able to retreat to their family’s homestead, or vacation at Torra Bay, the Lion Rangers are hard at work to limit human-lion conflict. Because people, and therefore livestock, are on-the-move in such large numbers during the festive season, the Lion Rangers re-double their efforts. Particularly with the lack of rains in Kunene this year, many families are trekking with their goats, sheep, and cattle to ‘drought farms’, or dry season livestock posts where grazing is typically only used in drier times. This brings livestock and lions into potential conflict in a variety of hard-to-reach areas.

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Trail Cameras in Ombonde

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In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), the Lion Rangers have been performing an intensive camera-trapping project in the Ombonde research area. Building off the success of the MEFT-led rapid assessment of the desert-adapted lion population in May, This intensive camera-trapping project is laying the groundwork for a planned population survey of the northwest lions, to take place in mid-2022.

Above are just a few of the interesting and exciting photos captured on the trail cameras in the past few months.

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Exchange Visit and Replacing Collars

Immobilized desert-adapted lions, Hobatere Concession, November 2021.

During the past week, the Lion Rangers were visited by a delegation of community conservationists from the Omusati, Oshana, and Oshikoto regions. This exchange visit, motivated and supported by the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia (CCFN), served as a first point of contact to gauge the feasibility of expanding the Lion Ranger program to the communal areas north of Etosha National Park. Lions frequently leave the northern Etosha boundary to prey-upon pastoralists’ livestock, and are often killed as a result.

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History of Human-Lion Conflict in Northwest Namibia

Desert-adapted lioness in the Hoanib riverbed, 2019. Photo: A. Wattamaniuk.

African Studies Review has published a new research article by Lion Ranger co-founder John Heydinger, entitled “Human-Lion Conflict and the Reproduction of White Supremacy in the Northwest Namibia.” This historically-focused paper looks at how humans and lions have interacted on pastoral and within protected area land, in northwest Namibia, from the beginning of the colonial period to independence. This article is part of Heydinger’s broader historical research on the northwest, focusing on human-lion interactions, but also touching issues of colonial-era science and politics, socioeconomics, and local cultures.

The complete article is available here.

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October Collaring in Ombonde

Omatendeka Lion Ranger, Kandavii Nguezeeta, tracking lions in the Ombonde Research Area, in preparation for collaring, October 2021.

Over the past week, the Lion Rangers have been partnering with Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) game capture and veterinary staff to collar lions in the Ombonde Research Area. Following the recent poisoning of lions nearby here, including one male lion collared in the area in May, continuing to monitor lion movements in the area is considered a high priority.

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