Low rainfall and sparse prey distribution mean that the desert-adapted lions of the northern Namib have been on the move. In the recent weeks three prides in particular have been highly-mobile. The Agab pride has been favoring the mountainous etendeka area in the eastern Palmwag Concession, not far from the Lion Ranger base at Wereldsend.
The Huab pride has been moving between the coast and near Brandberg. Led by two experienced lionesses, this group is avoiding conflict with livestock in the rugged area.
A lioness of the Obab pride (Xpl-45) gave birth in May and has been raising her cubs along the shores of the Skeleton Coast. The rest of the Obab pride is covering a large range, providing further evidence of the extensive home-range of the desert-adapted lions and unique fission-fusion dynamics of the population.
Today members of the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, AfriCat North, Desert Lion Conservation, WWF – Namibia, and the University of Minnesota Lion Center met at Wereldsend Environmental Centre in the Palmwag Concession to discuss progress made and ways forward with the new Early-Warning System for human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia. Progress reports from the field came in from AfriCat, focusing on human-lion conflict along the western Etosha fence, and from IRDNC’s Rapid Response Team Leaders and Desert Lion Conservation focusing upon the western subpopulation. Lots of good and crucial information was shared, including seventeen early-warning and satellite collars being fitted to the western subpopulation and widespread fence repair to better maintain space between livestock and the eastern subpopulation. Proactive planning focused on rolling-out the Early-Warning System at even greater capacity over the coming months, with particular focus on ensuring information flow to all relevant stakeholders for timely incident prevention and response. Finally, the assembled group agreed to support the creation of new position, the Northwest Lion Information Manager, who will spearhead on-the-ground and public information dissemination concerning lion movements and conflict prevention. Lots of good work being done out there!
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.
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 →
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.