Monitoring and Collaring

Desert-adapted lioness, OPL-4, Ombonde Research Area.

An important part of continuous monitoring of the desert-adapted lions is ensuring GPS/satellite collars stay up to date. Collars become damaged and batteries run low, necessitating upkeep and replacement. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and with support from GEF and WWF-Namibia, the Lion Rangers have been actively re-collaring lions around the Ombonde Research Area over the past week. The purpose of these activities are both to continue ongoing research of the desert-adapted lions, as well as ensuring proactive management of human-lion conflict, which remains the number one cause of mortality for non-cub lions in northwest Namibia.

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Cameras to Limit Conflict

Trail camera photo of male and female lion, Hobatere Concession.

Among the challenges for pastoralists maintaining livestock herds in northwest Namibia, is the varying forms of land-use. While pastoralists keep their herds on mixed-use land, these can abut conservation concessions. For many conservancy members farming in Ehi-rovipuka and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies, the Hobatere Tourism Concession has long served as a refuge for, and source of, lions and other large carnivores. When lions depart Hobatere for communal farmlands, they run the risk of coming into contact with livestock. This can lead to human-lion conflict, resulting in retaliatory or preventative lion killing by certain pastoralists. An important part of the Lion Rangers’ work is assisting the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) in keeping tack of lions as they move in and out of Hobatere. At the request of MEFT the Lion Rangers Research Team has been helping monitor lion movements and group dynamics through the use of trail cameras in Hobatere. Over the past month groups of lions, including new cubs (!) were photographed within Hobatere, along with some other important images that are contributing to evidence-based conservation in the area.

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Collaring in Anabeb

Dr HO Reuter and Lion Rangers with immobilized desert-adapted lioness in Anabeb Conservancy.

Responding to two separate groups of young uncollared lions in Anabeb Conservancy, the Lion Rangers, in partnership with IRDNC and the Namibian Lion Trust, and under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, engaged in an intensive collaring operation of two separate groups, totaling thirteen lions, this past week.

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Translocation Away from Trouble

NPL-27; photo taken from trail camera.

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.

(Warning: graphic content in link)

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Removal of Problem-Causing Lion

View of arid Kunene Region, Namibia.

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.

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Monitoring and Conflict Avoidance

XPL-131 in near the Hoanib riverbed. Photo: A. Uararavi

Lion Rangers in the Sesfontein and Puros Conservancies have been hard at work over the last few weeks managing a difficult conflict situation. The male lion XPL-131, who normally inhabits the Hoanib riverbed, has gone on something of a walkabout further east through the Giribes Plain, towards the homesteads of the Gomatum riverbed area. Not normally a conflict-causing lion, Lion Rangers Rodney Tjivara, Steven Kasaona, and IRDNC Rapid Response Team Leaders, Allu Uararavi and Cliff Tjikundi have been working tirelessly to ensure this lion does not develop any bad habits, or cost the local farmers livestock. This has long been a farming area and is far afield from the core wildlife areas of Sesfontein and Puros.

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New Paper: Communities Living with Lions

Desert-adapted lioness near Hoanib riverbed, April 2019.

One of the challenges for communities living alongside lions is to quantify the costs lions impose. There are many programs that account for the monetary costs of livestock losses, but how does one account for the other costs? If the goal is to proactively limit human-lion conflict, rather than simply compensate people after livestock death, conservationists need to innovate ways to account for the day-to-day costs of living with lions, even during the best of circumstances.

A new paper, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center and WWF-Namibia, looks at the potential opportunity costs of living alongside the desert-adapted lions.

(See full paper here)

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Patrols Across Kunene

Lion Rangers and NLT staff on patrol in Ehi-rovipuka, December 2021.

The holidays are an especially important time for the Lion Rangers. While the rest of Namibia is able to retreat to their family’s homestead, or vacation at Torra Bay, the Lion Rangers are hard at work to limit human-lion conflict. Because people, and therefore livestock, are on-the-move in such large numbers during the festive season, the Lion Rangers re-double their efforts. Particularly with the lack of rains in Kunene this year, many families are trekking with their goats, sheep, and cattle to ‘drought farms’, or dry season livestock posts where grazing is typically only used in drier times. This brings livestock and lions into potential conflict in a variety of hard-to-reach areas.

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Trail Cameras in Ombonde

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In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), the Lion Rangers have been performing an intensive camera-trapping project in the Ombonde research area. Building off the success of the MEFT-led rapid assessment of the desert-adapted lion population in May, This intensive camera-trapping project is laying the groundwork for a planned population survey of the northwest lions, to take place in mid-2022.

Above are just a few of the interesting and exciting photos captured on the trail cameras in the past few months.

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