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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TOSCO Lion Rangers Video

See this great video, created by Lion Ranger partner TOSCO, focusing on the work of Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation and including Puros Lion Ranger Berthus Tjipombo in a star turn. Felix Vallat, TOSCO Founder and Lion Ranger Program Coordinator, has been integral to supporting the conservation of Northwest Namibia’s desert-adapted lions for years. Dr. Stander is a co-founder of the Lion Ranger program and has been performing in-depth field research on the desert-adapted lions since 1997.

Puros Lion Ranger Berthus Tjipombo

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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Covid-19 and Big Cats

One of the tigers at the Bronx Zoo. Credit: National Geographic

Over the weekend, a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for Covid-19. The tiger, along with six other big cats, including three other tigers and three lions, had been displaying symptoms similar to those displayed by humans infected with Covid-19, including a dry cough. A positive test for Covid-19 was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

Here is the statement released by the Wildlife Conservation Society, who runs the Bronx Zoo and also supports IRDNC’s human-wildlife conflict Rapid Response Teams. All seven big cats appear to have been infected by a zoo keeper and all are expected to recover fully.

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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.

Unknown Group Along the Escarpment

Over the past week, Dr. John Heydinger and Lion Ranger Field Operations Assistant Jendery Tsaneb, have been moving on foot through the Etendeka Concession in search of previously unmarked and uncollared groups of desert-adapted lions. This area is incredibly rugged and necessitated Heydinger and Tsaneb covering more than 80 km on-foot over five days. Their efforts were not in vain as ample evidence of multiple groups of lions inhabiting the area was uncovered.

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Field Set-Up Along the Escarpment

During the past week some of the Lion Rangers, led by Sr. Lion Ranger Phineas Kasaona, performed reconnaissance work within the Anabeb, Ehirovipuka, and Omatendeka conservancies along the escarpment. These highland areas have been spared some of the worst effects of drought and in certain locations, including around the Otjomonbonde and Okahavariona waterholes, game was still visible; albeit in limited numbers. Some highlights included a group of five eland spotted in the southern Omatendeka conservancy, herds of springbok near Otjihapa, some intensive foot-based lion tracking, and cool temperatures at night. Special thanks to the ladies of Otjizeka for assisting us while performing some needed vehicle repairs.

The primary purpose of the visit was logistics planning for 2020-2021. For years a subpopulation of lions has inhabited the area but without comprehensive population monitoring taking place. As was mentioned in an earlier update, the Lion Rangers, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center, are taking charge of monitoring lions in the area beginning early next year. Watch this space for exciting news about the project as well as updates from the field.

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Lion Rangers and Rapid Response Team Work, April 2019

Lion Rangers and Rapid Response teams moving livestock; Sesfontein

April was busy for the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Rapid Response teams, as almost the entire month was spent in the field responding to or preventing human-lion conflict (HLC) incidents. As reported by Rapid Response Team Leader and Coordinator Cliff Tjikundi, the Lion Rangers and Rapid Response teams “successfully responded to eight (8) lion conflict incidents/occasions (2 in Sesfontein, 2 in Anabeb, 3 Ehi-rovipuka and 1 in Torra), preventing further [livestock and lion] incidents/losses. The most crucial ones were the two (2) incidents in Sesfontein conservancy, at Ganamub and Elephant song, where the team was actively collecting livestock from the field into kraals at night. In the process two (2) cattle were killed, but this could have been worse as the situation lasted for about two weeks, before the lions returned to the Hoanib river. This was one of those situations where lions find themselves in areas with lot of cattle and are difficult to access with vehicles. The lions seem to use the geography to their advantage to avoid people.” In the past such situations have often resulted in lions being translocated. This process is led by Philip Stander of the Desert Lion Conservation Project (DLC). However, for the first time the Rapid Response teams and Lion Rangers resolved an intensive series of conflicts without the direct assistance of DLC! This is a monumental development in efforts to foster community-based conservation of the desert-adapted lion population. The greater responsibility that the Lion Rangers, Rapid Response teams, and community members can take in fostering safe human-lion interactions, the brighter the prospect for the area’s farmers and lions.

There have also been dramatic improvements concerning lion incidents in Ehi-rovipuka and Omatendeka conservancies, as there were no recorded livestock losses in April. This is due to improved lion monitoring by a team consisting of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), AfriCat North and the Lion Rangers/Rapid Response teams. Efforts in this area have been emphasizing regular patrols and monitoring along the Etosha and Hobatere fences, while community engagement efforts are focusing on developing farmers’ willingness to report lion movements in farming areas.

Collared lioness near Hoanib River
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