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.
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.