NACSO Workshop, Wereldsend – 15 February, 2018

Over the past three days we were joined at our Wereldsend (World’s-End) base camp by members of NACSO (Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organizations), the Namibia Development Fund, and the Kunene Regional Communal Conservation Association (KRCCA) for a wide-ranging workshop on issues of governance and capacity-development in the northern Kunene conservancies.

Issues of particular interest were the funding made available from the Green Climate Fund for combating possible climate change challenges in the northern Kunene and the importance of growing conservancy capacity for interacting with government. NACSO encouraged conservancies to band-together under conservancy organizations to submit proposals to buttress infrastructure and develop livestock husbandry techniques that will be more resilient under uncertain climate regimes. Governance engagement was covered by Theo of the Namibia Development Fund who emphasized the importance of effective communication between communities and government to implement needed policy changes.

At the workshop John presented the progress of the Lion Ranger program within the focal lion-range conservancies. This presentation was a follow-up to one given to the KRCCA in July of last year. The primary purpose of the presentation was to provide an update on progress in mitigating and preventing human-lion conflict and ensure that the community remains informed about relevant lion issues. It was heartening to hear the positive feedback from attendees about the progress that is already being made.

Thanks to NACSO for organizing the conference, and for the Wereldsend Staff, Wandi Tsanes, John Steenkamp, Alfeus Ouseb, and Leonard Steenkamp for their hospitality.

Mbokondja ‘problem lion’ – 8 February, 2018

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 

Puros Lion Rangers – 1 February, 2018

Joined by photographer and videographer Alexandra Wattamaniuk, we spent a few days working with the Puros Conservancy Lion Rangers. As part of kick-starting the Lion Ranger program and building-out the soon-to-be-live Lion Ranger website, we spent some time with Rangers Kooti Karutjaiva, Colin Kasupi, and Berthus Tjipombo. These three shared their tracking knowledge and spent time talking about why they think the Lion Rangers’ job is so important. The Puros Lion Rangers are responsible for monitoring lions in the conservancy and for mitigating and preventing human-lion conflict. They are an important part of limiting human-lion conflict in the area and in growing the benefits conservancies receive from living with lions.

We are so happy to work with such a great team and thank Alexandra for her hard work.


Lion Recovery Fund Meeting – 30 January, 2018

Over the past five days, Peter Lindsey and Jeffrey Parrish of Wildlife Conservation Network and the Lion Recovery Fund, have visited Namibia to examine and consult concerning the state of national lion conservation. At Wilderness Safaris’ Damaraland Camp, Dr. Philip Stander, Emsie Verway, and I met with Mr. Lindsey and Parrish to discuss the conservation status of Kunene’s Desert lion population and how human-lion conflict is affecting the population’s viability. It was a treat to speak with Mr. Lindsey and Parrish and share in their wide-ranging knowledge on lion conservation. Issues of particular importance were communicating good news about community-focused conservation and growing the arena of concern around desert lions. Dr. Stander and Ms. Verway provided crucial on-the-ground perspectives from their years of work with carnivores in Kunene.

Thanks to Wilderness Safaris for their generosity in hosting all of us.

Lions in Ugab – 17 January, 2018

A pair of lions, originally from further north near the Huab River mouth, now residing in the Ugab River, killed 172 small stock (goats and sheep) which were being kept by the White Lady Lodge near the Brandberg. This is recognized to be a further set-back to human-lion conflict mitigation in Kunene. Of note is that these livestock were being kept in a tourism area in which the conservancy and the operator should have an agreement in place prohibiting the presence of significant numbers of stock. If, as was reported by The Namibian, 600 head of small stock were being kept in this area, it would likely violate the conservancy zonation.

One continually-pressing issue in mitigating and preventing human-lion conflict in Kunene is when well-intentioned folks retard long-term conservation by engaging in ill-informed activities. If the actions of individuals and groups are habituating lions to human contact, it may increase the likelihood that free-ranging lions will turn into ‘problem lions.’ In the case with these lions in the Ugab, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, in the interest of human safety, may take the decision to have the lions destroyed. This would be unfortunate but entirely defensible.

Lions Moved Again – 11 January, 2018

Following a series of human-lion conflict (HLC) incidents in //Khoadi #Khoas and Torra Conservancies in November of last year, a group of lions, primarily residing in the Klip River, were translocated from Kunene into the Erongo Region near Omaruru. Following the initial HLC incidents, some of the lions were destroyed, while four were translocated, and three fled into the bush. The four translocated lions are now, following protests by Omaruru-area farmers, being translocated once again to Etosha National Park.

The HLC challenge in Kunene remains a difficult one. We are heartened by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s insistence to find solutions to the problem that work for the communities and the lions. Our research, partnering with Kunene communities, aims at providing an evidence-based basis for managing Kunene HLC into the future. Hopefully it will assist in moving towards a management approach that can be proactive, rather than having to be reactive.