In recent weeks different groups of desert-adapted lions have moved close to two different settlement areas. Along the banks of the Huab riverbed a group of three subadult females and one male have been moving west of the village of De Riet. This group was recently collared in the same area.
In Puros Conservancy a pair of females has been moving up and down the Hoaruseb riverbed, even once coming into conflict with the community’s cattle, which are grazing in the riverbed because grass is not available elsewhere. The IRDNC Rapid Response teams have been working with the Puros Lion Rangers under the direction of Dr. Stander of Desert Lion Conservation to address this challenge. Updates on this group’s movements have been provided by Desert Lion Conservation throughout the month of January.
Rainfall further east is bringing prey further up the Huab riverbed, towards the settlements of De Riet in Torra Conservancy and Rennevoote along the Torra-Doro !Nawas Conservancy border. Over the past week the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Rapid Response Teams have been working alongside staff from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to keeps tabs on lions in the area. With the low density of prey there was some concern that the lions may be struggling to find food. However, extensive video and photographic evidence was reviewed and leading scientists and field practitioners agreed the lions are doing well considering the season and relative lack of rainfall, and thus prey.
Throughout December and early January, the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa conservancies joined staff from Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, as well as volunteers from each conservancy to begin – and complete! – construction of the Lion Rangers new home in the Ombonde catchment area. The Ombonde Research and Monitoring Camp (ORMC) will be the new field base for the Lion Rangers and other conservancy field staff working in the Ombonde area.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
For more than twenty-five years, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) has been leading the charge for community-based natural resource management in Namibia. Simply put, without the efforts of IRDNC founders and staff, Namibia’s communal conservancies may never have come into being. There are now more than 86 communal conservancies, encompassing more than 20% of Namibia’s land, with 227,000 people participating. IRDNC staff are central to the work of limiting human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia. The Lion Rangers’ work would be impossible without IRDNC’s ongoing support. Watch this great video to learn more.
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.
It is that time of the year again, for the Northwest Game Count. The world’s longest running and largest road-based game count has been an annual event among conservancies since 2000. This year marks the twentieth anniversary and it was certainly a memorable one: the first to take place in the time of social distancing.