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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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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New IRDNC Short Video

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.

An Urgent Translocation

Orphaned Kowarib cubs being translocated.

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.

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Northwest Game Count, 2020

Northwest Game Count data collection in the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy.

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.

Conservancy Game Guards in Torra spotting a black-backed jackal.
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Garth Owen-Smith, 1944-2020

Garth Owen-Smtih

On 11 April, 2020, Garth Owen-Smith, co-founder of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), and the widely-regarded ‘father’ of Namibia conservation passed-away peacefully. Garth dedicated his life to advocating for Namibia’s wildlife and wild places. His commitment to community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), was on-display throughout a career spanning six decades, which he primarily spent in northwest Namibia. His loss is felt keenly by all who work to maintain wildlife conservation in Namibia.

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The Work Goes On…

Lionesses and cubs, near the Hoanib. Photo: P. Stander.

During this time of global uncertainty, the work of the IRDNC Rapid Response Teams, the Lion Rangers, and so many of the on-the-ground conservationists in northwest Namibia continues. Poaching and human-wildlife conflict care very little for Covid-19 and it remains imperative that wildlife conservation presses-on. Thanks to the tireless efforts of IRDNC’s directors and board and their partners, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism is examining how to keep anti-poaching and human-wildlife conflict personnel, such as the Lion Rangers and Rapid Response Teams in the field.

But now, as always, field deployment costs money. Please consider supporting this critical conservation work by visiting this site and donating. Every little bit helps. Even during this trying time, we can secure an intact future for the wildlife and communities of northwest Namibia.

The Lion Rangers and HWC Rapid Response Teams are still hard at work.