The Lion Rangers and numerous other programs across Africa take each 10 August to reflect on the past year and the ongoing challenge of lion conservation. There is still much work to be done, but we believe great progress is being made. Thanks to everyone who has dedicated their lives, time, and resources, to the worthwhile venture of ensuring a future for free-ranging lions.
Above are some of our favorite recent photos of some of our favorite lions from Kunene.
Over the past week, a technical team composed of the Lion Rangers’ Leadership Team, in partnership with IRDNC Coordinators and WWF-Namibia Program Staff, met with core lion-range conservancies in Kunene. The agenda is developing an innovative new program to pay communities for living sustainably alongside lions. This program is called Wildlife Credits and will be an important part of demonstrating to communities the commitment of the international conservation community to recognizing the work of Africans conserving lions.
Wildlife Credits is an innovative form of paying communities for conservation performance. Unlike the majority of past conservation programs, where donations come as money or equipment with the promise of performance, Wildlife Credits supports existing work where, in this case, communities are already conserving their wildlife. It is an incentive-based performance system to reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation, while recognizing that conservation must be economically competitive. Within Namibia this program is being spearheaded by NACSO and CCFN.
An important part limiting human-lion conflict is knowing which lions are using which areas. As communal farmers return to dry season grazing areas of eastern Ehi-rovipuka, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is taking the lead on ensuring lions inhabiting the Hobatere tourism concession are not endangering pastoralists’ livelihoods. In partnership with the Lion Rangers, MEFT is overseeing an intensive trail camera deployment in Hobatere. This not only provides movement and demographic information on lions and other species, but helps MEFT and Lion Rangers assess which lions are using the area, and with what frequency.
Human-lion conflict challenges within the Ehi-rovipuka and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies bordering the Hobatere tourism concession necessitated a short-notice operation by the Lion Rangers in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT). In the past few months male lions have been causing problems for communal farmers along the Hobatere fence line. With support from MEFT veterinary services and the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia, a team of Rangers and MEFT staff spent an intensive three days in Hobatere. What they found there was somewhat surprising.
The rainy season has brought new challenges to the lions and Lion Rangers in northwest Namibia. As game have dispersed across the area, lions have followed prey species, bringing them into different areas and into contact with livestock and farmers. One particular challenge has concerned a male lion, NPL-27, first collared by the Namibian Lion Trust (NLT) in 2019. This male had been spending the majority of his time around the Okavariona-Otjiapa waterhole complex during 2021, as was made evident in numerous photos taken from our trail cameras. However, as the rainy season began other males moved into the area, seemingly pushing NPL-27 out and towards potential human-lion conflict.
Etosha National Park encompasses more than 22,000 sq km of north-central and northwest Namibia. Keeping the entire park’s fence in good working order is a tall task, verging on the near impossible given the sandy substrate underlying the fence. This becomes a particular problem when lions from Etosha transgress the park’s boundary, moving onto communal land and potentially causing problems for neighboring livestock farmers.
This past weekend at Wereldsend saw the First Annual Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger Awards (GOSCARs). Generously supported by the Namibia Chamber of Environment, these awards, to honor the memory of the late Garth Owen-Smith, recognize and celebrate the local conservationists who work and walk in the field to ensure the future of Namibia’s natural resources. Honorees exemplify the original concept with which Namibia’s internationally-recognized community-based natural resource management program started: hard work, dedication, and a commitment to unifying rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation.
The Lion Rangers program was eager to nominate our own Rodney Tjavara, who works with Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO), for this prestigious award. We are overjoyed that Rodney’s years of hard work have been recognized by Namibia’s wider conservation community.
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.