Reconnaissance in the Mountains

View of the Ombonde river catchment study area.

This past week Dr. John Heydinger and Lion Ranger Field Assistant Jendery Tsaneb recommenced their foot-based exploration of the mountainous terrain surrounding the Ombonde river catchment. In partnership with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, the University of Minnesota Lion Center is pioneering a new lion monitoring and conservation project in the area.

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New Early-Warning Towers

Early-warning tower materials arriving at Ganamub, Sesfontein Conservancy

This past week the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Human-Wildlife Conflict Response teams headed to the conservancies of Sesfontein and Puros to deploy another pair of early-warning system towers. This innovative new system of collecting, storing, and disseminating lion data was pioneered by Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation and has become an invaluable tool and resource for communal herders in northwest Namibia as they manage the difficulties of living alongside the desert-adapted lions.

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Lion Rangers – Covid Chronicles

Here is a brand new video from Travel Channel Namibia starring the Lion Rangers, program co-founder Dr. Philip Stander, and TOSCO founder and Lion Rangers Program Coordinator, Felix Vallat. In this video you can hear Rodney, and Rapid Response Leaders Linus and Cliff talk about the work of the Lion Rangers. Thanks so much to Covid Chronicles for spending time with the Lion Rangers and for bringing attention to the challenges they face.

Understanding Human-Lion Conflict

Lion Ranger program co-founders, Dr. Philip Stander and Russell Vinjevold, provide an in-depth explanation on the challenges of human-lion conflict within communal lands in northwest Namibia. Dr. Stander explains the challenges faced by local communities in arid northwest Namibia. In particular, Stander emphasizes the give-and-take between community needs and the lions’ needs following the outcomes of drought and livelihood reductions, which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.

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TOSCO Lion Rangers Video

See this great video, created by Lion Ranger partner TOSCO, focusing on the work of Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation and including Puros Lion Ranger Berthus Tjipombo in a star turn. Felix Vallat, TOSCO Founder and Lion Ranger Program Coordinator, has been integral to supporting the conservation of Northwest Namibia’s desert-adapted lions for years. Dr. Stander is a co-founder of the Lion Ranger program and has been performing in-depth field research on the desert-adapted lions since 1997.

Puros Lion Ranger Berthus Tjipombo

Prey Returning to the Hoanib

Video of lioness stalking prey, provided by Desert Lion Conservation.

The past months have brought scanty rains to the northern Namib desert. However, wildlife have started returning to the ephemeral riverbeds. In addition to lions, oryx, giraffe, ostrich, and elephants have been seen moving through the landscape. Dr. Flip Stander, who has remained steadfast in monitoring the desert-adapted lion population during the ongoing lockdown recently reported that all residents lions are looking well-fed and healthy. Good news!

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New Monitoring Project

Pair of Rüppell’s korhaan near Wereldsend. Photo by AJ Wattamaniuk

Very little is known about the Rüppell’s korhaan (Eupodotis rueppellii). This small bustard species is endemic to the rocky plains and hillsides of northwest Namibia. Sandy brown on the top with white below, these korhaans are reluctant fliers, territorial, and usually found in pairs, or a pair with a juvenile. Considered to be more common in the southern Namib, many maps of the species’ range do not include the northern Namib. Yet, any of the Lion Rangers can tell you that these birds are relatively common. Often our mornings in the field begin with the low croak of these korhaans calling to one another. It only takes one morning to understand why they are colloquially known as the ‘Damara frog.’

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Relief Food Distribution

Grateful food recipients and community conservationists.

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched all parts the globe, including limiting incomes to northwest Namibia conservancy residents. Beginning in March, staff at tourist accommodations and working for touring companies were sent home, with little certainty about when they will return to work. This dramatic and unexpected hit to local incomes immediately began affecting livelihoods and eroding people’s savings. Many parents rely on schools to provide their children with meals during the school year – the closure of schools is exacerbating food insecurity.

Conservation of wildlife cannot take place when people cannot meet their basic needs. Alongside IRDNC staff, and with support from TOSCO, and Oliver Adolph and Family, the Lion Rangers have been helping to distribute food relief in the southern Kunene Region. This past week Lead Field Assistant Jendery Tsaneb helped spearhead relief to affect farmers and community members. Packages of mealie paap, pasta, soup packets, oil, sugar, and tea were loaded on to trucks and delivered to meet the greatest needs.

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