Over the past week, a technical team composed of the Lion Rangers’ Leadership Team, in partnership with IRDNC Coordinators and WWF-Namibia Program Staff, met with core lion-range conservancies in Kunene. The agenda is developing an innovative new program to pay communities for living sustainably alongside lions. This program is called Wildlife Credits and will be an important part of demonstrating to communities the commitment of the international conservation community to recognizing the work of Africans conserving lions.
Wildlife Credits is an innovative form of paying communities for conservation performance. Unlike the majority of past conservation programs, where donations come as money or equipment with the promise of performance, Wildlife Credits supports existing work where, in this case, communities are already conserving their wildlife. It is an incentive-based performance system to reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation, while recognizing that conservation must be economically competitive. Within Namibia this program is being spearheaded by NACSO and CCFN.
An important part limiting human-lion conflict is knowing which lions are using which areas. As communal farmers return to dry season grazing areas of eastern Ehi-rovipuka, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is taking the lead on ensuring lions inhabiting the Hobatere tourism concession are not endangering pastoralists’ livelihoods. In partnership with the Lion Rangers, MEFT is overseeing an intensive trail camera deployment in Hobatere. This not only provides movement and demographic information on lions and other species, but helps MEFT and Lion Rangers assess which lions are using the area, and with what frequency.
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.
During the past week, the Lion Rangers were visited by a delegation of community conservationists from the Omusati, Oshana, and Oshikoto regions. This exchange visit, motivated and supported by the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia (CCFN), served as a first point of contact to gauge the feasibility of expanding the Lion Ranger program to the communal areas north of Etosha National Park. Lions frequently leave the northern Etosha boundary to prey-upon pastoralists’ livestock, and are often killed as a result.
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.