In partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Namibia), the Northwest Lion Working Group is currently piloting a program to directly compensate conservancies for living with lions! Though the project is still in its nascent stages, there is great hope that this will be a paradigm shift in addressing human-lion conflict within communal land in northwest Namibia.
The collaring program draws together years of desert lion monitoring and ecological data to estimate the cost to a given conservancy for having resident lions. The cost is based upon the amount of wildlife a given lion consumes within a year. Because conservancies have rights over game species, for own-use or trophy hunting based upon an agreed-upon quota, individuals of a given game species have a proxy monetary value. Say a mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is worth $100. Because Desert Lion Conservation has been monitoring lion dietary habits for years, estimates are available for the number of zebra predated by an individual lion each year. If a lion kills twenty mountain zebra within a year, the cost to the conservancy is $2,000 (20 x 100). Because desert lions are not confined to particular conservancies, the amount a conservancy receives is based upon the number of nights a given lion spends in that conservancy (lions being mainly nocturnal). So, if the cost of having a lion is $2,000 annually, and the lion spends 120 nights in the conservancy, that conservancy receives $675.53 (.328767 x 2,000 = 657.53424). The rest of the money would go to the other conservancies where the lion spends other nights.
The funding to remunerate communities for the lions is being sourced from Namibian and international donors and is being spearheaded by WWF-Namibia.
This program is still very much in a testing phase, but represents an important innovation in tying communities to lions through primarily ecological means. On the horizon is a better estimate for the number of individual lions in northwest Namibia and increasing effort to have more of them collared. Stay tuned for updates.