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.Continue reading
In February a female lioness, XPL-121, was shot near a farm in the Anabeb Conservancy. She had been struggling to feed her three cubs, due to low numbers of prey in the area, and was increasingly encroaching on farmers’ livestock. In the following days the IRDNC Rapid Response Teams, Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism staff, and Lion Rangers, worked tirelessly to try to capture the newly orphaned cubs. They were unsuccessful. This was considered an urgent matter as the cubs were unable to feed themselves. Thankfully, the Anabeb Conservancy stepped in. In the ensuing months conservancy management and members donated donkeys to feed the orphaned cubs and ensure their survival until they could be safely captured and translocated away from danger.Continue reading
Over the weekend the Lion Rangers of Anabeb Conservancy, led by IRDNC’s Rapid Response Team, and partnering with Conservancy Game Guards and local villagers, erected another Early-Warning System tower at Otjitoveni. This farm is home to Lion Ranger Ronald Karutjaiva as well as IRDNC Rapid Response Team Leader Linus Mbomoboro. For more than two years Karutjaiva and Mbomboro have been working to limit human-lion conflict across the northwest, including setting-up Early Warning towers at numerous farms. During that period their attention has been taken from their own livestock and they have lost numerous goats and sheep to lions. Despite consistent efforts by local herders to play their part, a group of lions has made themselves too comfortable near Otjitoveni and it was decided the time was right to erect another Early Warning tower. Thanks to the Anabeb Conservancy for their help and for assisting Karutjaiva and Mbomboro so they can continue their work across the region.
It is important that the perspectives of community members are incorporated into management decisions concerning desert-adapted lions on communal land. Residents of communal conservancies who have to pay the price of living with lions deserve to have their voices heard, even amplified. In late 2017 we surveyed a representative sample of livestock owners in core lion-range conservancies to assess local perceptions of living with lions. Since that time, preliminary results from these surveys have informed management recommendations and actions of the Northwest Lion Working Group. Today we are excited to announce the release of this research, which is being published in the journal Biological Conservation.
This survey is the first of its kind in the area. It serves as an important baseline for assessing the effectiveness of activities to limit human-lion conflict going forward.
In northwest Namibia communal farmers and desert-adapted lions share an arid landscape. When prey is scarce, lions can predate farmers’ livestock, leading to lions being killed in response. The Lion Rangers, a group of trained, community conservationists are working to limit livestock losses and reduce human-lion conflict. One tool in the Lion Rangers’ arsenal is the Early-Warning System, an innovative new program that began operation in 2018.
It starts with the erection of an Early-Warning Tower at a farmers’ homestead. This tower searches for collared lions and alerts farmers when lions are in the area by activating a series of lights and sirens so farmers can take precautions to secure their livestock.
Lion Rangers are then deployed to the field to find lions in the affected area, to fit them with Early-Warning collars.
Working with community leaders and farmers the Lion Rangers use local information and tracking to pinpoint where the relevant groups of lions move and reside.
Lions are tracked and lured, then darted by trained and registered professionals and fitted with Early-Warning collars that respond with the erected towers. The collars’ location and status can also be monitored remotely. The goal is to inform farmers’ of lion movements BEFORE lions enter the affected farming area. This is helping limit livestock losses and human-lion conflict.
When lions move into potential conflict areas, the information can be monitored and then disseminated to the relevant people.
The result are groups of lions that are observed safely and monitored remote. The aim is the long-term transformation of human and lion behavior: so that lions no longer seek farmers’ livestock and farmers are not forced to make the difficult decision to kill lions to protect their livestock.