Happy World Lion Day, 2022

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The Lion Rangers and numerous other programs across Africa take each 10 August to reflect on the past year and the ongoing challenge of lion conservation. There is still much work to be done, but we believe great progress is being made. Thanks to everyone who has dedicated their lives, time, and resources, to the worthwhile venture of ensuring a future for free-ranging lions.

Above are some of our favorite recent photos of some of our favorite lions from Kunene.

Collaring in Hobatere Concession

Heydinger assisting with collaring in Hobatere.

Human-lion conflict challenges within the Ehi-rovipuka and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies bordering the Hobatere tourism concession necessitated a short-notice operation by the Lion Rangers in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT). In the past few months male lions have been causing problems for communal farmers along the Hobatere fence line. With support from MEFT veterinary services and the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia, a team of Rangers and MEFT staff spent an intensive three days in Hobatere. What they found there was somewhat surprising.

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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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Short Interview with John

John discussing human-lion conflict challenges with community members in northwest Namibia.

In the run-up to World Lion Day, Lion Ranger Co-Founder Dr. John Heydinger sat-down (virtually) with students from the International Youth Geographic Association, to answer questions about working at the intersection of human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia. You can read the interview here. Thanks to the interested students for their thoughtful questions and helping spread the word on the Lion Rangers program.

Assisting MEFT in Hobatere

Desert-adapted lioness near Ombonde research area.

Over the past week the Lion Rangers provided field and technical support to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) within and along the border of the Hobatere Concession. Lions inhabiting the Hobatere Concession frequently move beyond concession boundaries to cause human-lion conflict (HLC) on adjoining lands. The Lion Rangers from Ehi-roviupuka and Lion Ranger Patrol Leader Jendery Tsaneb were requested by MEFT to help track lions in Hobatere so satellite and early-warning collars could be fitted to help limit HLC.

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Responding to HLC in Anabeb

Four uncollared desert-adapted lionesses.

Human-lion conflict (HLC) has been on the rise in the areas bordering Palmwag Concession. In particular, around the Mbakondja area, a recent spate of HLC incidents have led to livestock mortalities and even in lions being shot with MEFT approval. This past week the Lion Rangers received a call of a cow being killed while herded in the field west of Khowareb. A woman was tending her goats and few cattle near an ephemeral waterpoint in the mountains when she reported two lions chased a cow away from the group. IRDNC Human-Wildlife Support Teams arrived within a few hours to find the remnants of the cow’s carcass and four lionesses resting nearby.

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Monitoring Near Base Camp

Lioness with ostrich carcass in Torra Conservancy.

Over the past five days the Lion Rangers and program partners have been intensively monitoring four separate groups in Torra Conservancy and Ombonde research area.

On Friday, the group of XPL-105, composed of three adult females, killed an ostrich, fewer than 100m south of the road to Torra Bay – right along one of our team’s morning running routes! The three females easily dispatched the ostrich and had little problem keeping the pied crows and lappet-faced vultures at bay. Follow-up tracking the next day enabled us to recreate how the ostrich was stalked in a riverbed, then taken down and dragged under a nearby tree. After feeding on the carcass into the evening the three females moved into the Springbok River, coming within 6km of Driefontein farm. However, as one Driefontein farmer noted, “I know these lions. They are disciplined and do not cause problems.”

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