The Early-Warning System: a Ranger’s Perspective

In this short video, Lion Ranger Patrol Leader explains how the Early-Warning System works to inform area farmers when collared lions are nearby. The Early-Warning System, pioneered to limit human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia, is integral to the work of the Lion Rangers and helping limit human-lion conflict in northwest Namibia.

Thanks to WWF-Namibia for providing the filming and taking an interest in the program.

New Paper: Lion Rangers and Remote Sensing

A new paper by Lion Rangers Program Research Director, Dr. John Heydinger examines how the Lion Rangers are integrating remote sensing technologies with desert-adapted lion conservation on communal lands. This paper, published for a special issue of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution details the use of GPS/satellite collars, trail cameras, and the Lion Rangers use of the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART). Combined with the pillars of community-based natural resource management, we believe these technologies can help limit human-lion conflict on communal lands.

Collaring in Anabeb Conservancy

Lion Rangers and MEFT collaring team, Anabeb Conservancy

Over the past week the Lion Rangers, partnering with Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Game Capture and Regional Services staff, recollared the lioness XPL-139 in the Anabeb Conservancy. Following the Northwest Lion Population Survey, the Lion Rangers and MEFT Regional Services have put a renewed emphasis on re-collaring lions inhabiting communal lands, particularly those living close to farming areas. XPL-139, along with her pride-mates XPL-137 and XPL-138 have consistently stayed close to the Okomimuno farming area of Anabeb.

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Patrol and Trail Cameras around Brandberg

Brown hyena captured on trail camera.

A lingering question from the Northwest Lion Population Survey has been the presence or absence of lions around the Brandberg area of Tsiseb Conservancy. In the past it was known that a small group of lions inhabited the ephemeral Ugab riverbed and surrounding landscape. During the population survey no lions or evidence of lions was found in the area. To be more certain, the Lion Rangers Research Team and Sorris Sorris Rangers spent the past week intensively searching the Ugab and surrounding landscape.

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Northwest Game Count

Giraffe in Torra Conservancy. Photo: A Wattamaniuk

Each year, the second half of May is set-aside by conservationists in northwest Namibia for the annual Northwest Game Count.  The focus of this operation is to inform conservancies and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism of wildlife numbers for the purposes of adaptive resource management. The NW Game Count is the largest and longest-running road-based game count in the world, the Lion Rangers are always pleased to participate.

The game count takes place on communal and government-managed lands and is comprised of four distinct sub-areas: conservancies south of the veterinary control fence, conservancies north of the fence, the tourism concession areas of Etendeka, Hobatere, and Palmwag, and Skeleton Coast National Park. Conducted annually, the game count covers nearly seven million hectares and is undertaken as a joint exercise between conservancy members and staff, as well as NGOs, all overseen by MEFT.

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Human-Wildlife Conflict Conference

Hon. Pohamba Shifeta addresses the conference.

The Lion Rangers’ Leadership Team was honored to attend and present at the recent Namibia National Human-Wildlife Conflict Conference, hosted by Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), which took place in Windhoek from 10-12 May. This three-day, first-of-its-kind conference highlighted the challenges faced by rural communities living alongside wildlife.

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Human-Lion Conflict: the importance of locally-based approaches

Desert-adapted lioness near Ganamub river, November 2022.

A recent paper, co-authored by conservationists at the Namibian Chamber of Environment, examines human-wildlife conflict at a national level. This interesting mapping and analysis shines a light on some of the unique challenges of human-lion conflict – in particular the need for locally-based approaches to mitigate, manage, and prevent human-lion conflict. The exercise sought to identify whether certain environmental variables could meaningfully predict when and where human-lion conflict would take place. In the results Tavolaro et al. write “no predictor variable was found to have a significant effect on number of annual reports of livestock depredation by lion[.]” They continue in the discussion, “[n]one of the predictors for livestock depredation [for all carnivore species] were statistically significant, which could be because impacts are so pervasive and widespread across such diverse landscapes and farm management systems…that no variable or set of variables can explain the spatial variability patterns…This suggests that drivers of livestock depredation need to be explored at a finer scale (i.e., regional or conservancy level) for an improved understanding and subsequent mitigation.”

These findings underscore the importance of a locally-based approach to limiting human-lion conflict. With no predictable environmental patterns to draw-upon, lion movements, livestock movements, and human-lion conflict require eyes and boots on-the-ground. This is the approach of the Lion Rangers program.

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Population Survey: Finishing Up

NPL-34 and NPL-35 with two uncollared lions, Anabeb Conservancy, December 2022.

After nearly sixty days in the field, the Northwest Lion Population Survey completed this past week. Teams of Lion Rangers and MEFT staff have been working incredibly hard and it has paid off. More than 22,000 sq km have been covered by foot and vehicle. Every known lion in Kunene was observed and photographed, as well as some unexpected encounters. Lion Rangers from across the different conservancies partnered together, with many showing-off their tracking skills in areas they have not previously visited. Preliminary results indicate that the lion population of northwest Namibia is fairing well, even in the face of diminished prey numbers. Individuals and groups appear healthy, many lions were observed at recent kills, and we are heartened by the number of young cubs and conspicuously pregnant females. In the coming months lead researchers Uakendisa Muzuma and Dr. John Heydinger will be performing analysis and write-up of survey results, to be submitted to MEFT management. Watch this space for more information.

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Population Survey Week 8: Thick Bush

Video of desert-adapted cubs and lionesses, Etendeka Concession, December 2022.

Teams from the Northwest Lion Population Survey continued working to identify as many lions as possible across the Kunene Region. During week 8 our teams focused on the farming areas of eastern Anabeb Conservancy, where groups of lions have been splitting and re-forming recently. Further east Lion Rangers performed extensive foot patrols across the vast spaces of Ehi-rovipuka and Omatendeka conservancies. While no known lions were thought to be in these areas, our approach focused on landscape coverage to minimize the likelihood of unknown and unnoticed individuals. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays to Lion Rangers and MEFT staff worked tirelessly to complete this operation, with some great initial results. Particularly within Anabeb numerous collared and uncollared lions were observed and photographed.

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