De Rest Farm Incident – 11-17 June, 2018

During the week of 11-17 June, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) directed a multi-organizational team including the Tsiseb and Sorris Sorris conservancies, experts from the University of Minnesota Lion Center, and support staff working with Desert Lion Conservation, in responding to a series of ‘problem lion’ incidents around De Rest farm near the Ugab River. In the early-morning hours of 16 June, Ministry officials destroyed a six-and-a-half year-old male lion at the farm. The lion was shot in response to repeated incursions and following days of attempts to alleviate the situation using non-lethal methods.

Early in the week this lion and a pair of lionesses, raided stock at De Rest farm, killing 27 goats and sheep, as well as two donkeys inside a kraal – this loss represents a substantial portion of the household’s livestock. Each of these three lions had been previously fitted with collars by Desert Lion Conservation, a long-time partner with MET in monitoring Namibia’s iconic Desert lion population. In January, the two lionesses were fitted with newly-designed satellite and RFID collars; the male had earlier been fitted with a VHF radio collar. This group of lions is well-known to local MET officials and Desert Lion Conservation, as well as conservancy staff and local tourism operators.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

KfW, GIZ, and WWF-Namibia Workshop – 29-31 May, 2018

Over three days we were joined at World’s End by representatives from the German development bank KfW, GIZ – who consults the Namibian government, WWF-Namibia, and staff from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). The topic of our extended discussion was how to unify approaches to human-wildlife conflict in northwest Namibia, with particular emphasis on integrating the Lion Rangers and early-warning systems. Following on the heels of an extended MET review of infrastructure needs to address human-wildlife conflict, the whole group focused on aligning resources to serve the needs of Kunene communities. Surveys from core lion-range conservancies clarified the scope of the challenge faced by rural communities. Due to the recent drought, many conservancy residents are suffering from decreased livestock herds; oftentimes affecting households at an order of magnitude greater the annual income.

Continue reading

Orupembe and Sanitatas Lion Tracking – 2 June, 2018

Photo from NACSO

On 25 May a report came from Orupembe Conservancy that two lions had killed a pair of donkeys. All human-lion conflicts are cause for concern, however, this was especially disconcerting as it is nearby where a male lion was recently collared, though he was translocated out of the area.

IRDNC Human-Wildlife Conflict Rapid Response Coordinator Cliff Tjikundi, along with Desert Lion Conservation’s Rodney Tjiuaru, and Lion Ranger Linus Mbomboro responded to the reports passed along by the Puros Lion Rangers (Orupembe Conservancy borders Puros to the north). Upon arrival, the team was met by twenty armed members of the Orupembe and Sanitatas conservancies, engaged in tracking the culprit lions. With an array of knives, spears, pangas (machetes), and even an old firearm or two spread among the community members, the situation appeared critical. Quickly the response team was able to secure a meeting with the group, to discuss possible, hopefully peaceful, ways forward. Continue reading

Male Lion in Puros – 16 – 23 May, 2018

For one month, the Puros Lion Rangers, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and IRDNC monitored, tracked, and reported-on the movements of a male lion heading north through the Puros Conservancy. Previously unaccounted for, this young male had been making his presence known by raiding cattle and donkeys along an identified human-lion conflict hotspot corridor. Starting in Ganamub and heading north his movements were closely tracked, though he was often a step-ahead of the Lion Rangers. Moving through the rugged Puros mountains, a combination of vehicle and foot-based patrols followed this male as he made his way towards the village of Puros, on the banks of the Hoaruseb river. What made this lion particularly difficult to track was its unwillingness to return to a kill the following day. Generally, lions will return to finish off a carcass – providing both trackers, and, potentially, angry farmers, a better chance to account for the lion’s whereabouts. Difficulty accounting for this lion was further exacerbated by the (much needed) rains which fell in Kaokoveld during the middle of April. For two weeks the Hoaruseb was in flood, keeping the Lion Rangers from accessing all areas where the lion was thought to be residing.

Continue reading

First Early-Warning Tower Erected – 27 April, 2018

This past week Desert Lion Conservation, in partnership with the Lion Rangers, IRDNC, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, erected the first Early-Warning System tower at Driefonteine in the Torra Conservancy. Based on pioneering research by Dr. Philip Stander, the Early-Warning System integrates new innovations in GPS-collar technology with critical community-development progress made in the form of the Lion Ranger program. The goal is to provide farmers at human-lion conflict ‘hotspots’ with relevant information about lion movements in their area. Driefonteine has suffered from human-lion conflict incidents for more than twenty years, and was thus identified by both lion monitoring data and community survey information, as a critical location to have an Early-Warning System in operation.

On Friday, 27 April, the Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mr. Pohamba Penomwenyo Shifeta, visited Driefonteine where Cliff Tjikundi of IRDNC and some of the Lion Rangers presented the working capacities of the Early-Warning System. A crucial knock-on effect of the System is to support strong relationships between Ministry officials and local farmers as they work together to combat human-lion conflict. We thank the Minister for his visit and look forward to continuing to work closely with MET.

Alfues Ouseb, Gisela Ouses, and Nick Steenkamp stand by their new Early-Warning System tower.

Ministry Human-wildlife Conflict Mediation Scoping – 8-13 April, 2018

Human-wildlife conflict has been a persistent and pressing problem in northwest Namibia. Over the past years many different stakeholders have been working together and with communities to mitigate and prevent further issues. Since the publication of the Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan last year, many of the crucial stakeholders have been strengthening their ties and aligning their efforts. This past week has been a stirring example of the type of progress that can be made when we work together. Over six days a group of researchers, IRDNC and MET staff visited the Torra, Puros, Sesfontein, Omatendeka, Ehi-rovipuka, and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies to provide feedback to communities and receive on-the-ground input into the best ways forward for addressing human-wildlife conflict. There is no substitute for getting community feedback to prioritize the way forward.

Substantive input from the communities focused on the need for early-warning systems concerning lion movements and an emphasis on mobilizing Lion Rangers. There was much thoughtful discussion around the fire each night, spearheaded by project leader Jonas Heita, concerning the role of government in supporting rural communities, and how different stakeholders can build resilient, sustainable systems for addressing human-wildlife conflict in its myriad forms.

Thanks to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for prioritizing this work and organizing the trip. Thanks to all the conservancies for their thoughts and hospitality.


Human-lion Conflict Meeting, Anabeb Conservancy – 27 March, 2018

Today, representatives from IRDNC and the Lion Rangers met with members of the Anabeb committee and conservancy staff. A very positive discussion focused on how community conservation can be supported going forward. While human-lion conflict continues to be a pressing difficulty in the Conservancy, field staff are working diligently to monitor carnivore populations and limit conflict.

Our productive conversation highlighted the need for better information-sharing and continued capacity development for conservancy staff. Of course, the hard-won field experience of Game Guards and Lion Rangers has a lot to teach us as well. Today’s meeting was just another step forward in creating meaningful, sustainable solutions to human-lion conflict. Living alongside lions remains a challenge, but the community joins us in agreeing that evidence-based management which is community-centered is a strong way forward.

Thanks to Chairman Titus Rungundo and all the staff of the Anabeb Conservancy for hosting us.

Lion Ranger Training, World’s End and Mbokondja – 4-11 March, 2018

This past week, twelve Lion Rangers, three field coordinators, two researchers, and three staff members gathered to formally inaugurate and begin operations of the Lion Ranger Program. Our week of training consisted of ‘classroom’ work to brush-up on lion ecology, an overview of lion conservation across Africa, and an examination of the background and ways forward concerning human-lion conflict in the region. The Rangers themselves were invaluable contributors to all information sharing and provided a wealth of field experience drawing upon their years serving as Conservancy Game Guards. While we recognize that lion conservation and limiting human-lion conflict in Kunene is a journey, not a destination, all agreed that the program, still so young, is making great strides. Continue reading

(Back) at Mbokondja – 22 February, 2018

When it rains, it pours. Having recently addressed a difficult ‘problem’ lion situation at the Mbokondja farms, Anabeb’s Lion Rangers are once again busy with another adult male lion in the same area. Over the past week we were deployed, along with Anabeb Lion Ranger Linus Mbomboro, to Mbokondja for three days and nights of patrol and tracking to ensure that the area’s new resident was not endangering livestock or people. This yielded lots of lion sign, but not a clear sighting of the lion by either the Rangers or locals. This is a good indication that, while the male is moving around the area, he may feel uncomfortable being near homesteads during the day, and unable to predate livestock during the night. Great news!

By the end of our time the male was tracked into the mountains heading into the Palmwag Concession, where he appears to have met another, younger, lion. The pair appear to have set-off together. (Cliff Tjikundi, the Human-Wildlife Rapid Response Team Leader for IRDNC is currently patrolling the Mbokondja area.)

We take the past week as positive evidence of progress in implementing the Lion Rangers as effective agents in preventing human-lion conflict. The community members were appreciative and showed a clear willingness to work alongside the Rangers – we were even joined by Mr Karutjaiva who joined us for more than 10 km of lion tracking one morning.

Thanks to the community at Mbokondja for making us welcome, Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism officials for their assistance, and the Namibian Police for sharing their quarters with us.