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.
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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.