Rain!!!

Over the past months the rainy season has begun getting underway in Etosha National Park and further east. However, it had not made it to the Lion Rangers’ conservancies. That all changed in Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa this past week. While performing foot-based patrol in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), some of the Lion Rangers got separated from their camps near Palmfontein when the rivers began running.

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A Difficult Week

XPL-75 in January 2021.

The desert-adapted lions of northwest Namibia inhabit arid and semiarid environments dissimilar to lions in other parts of Africa. This leads to a variety of interesting behaviors, such as massive home ranges and groups specializing in hunting giraffe in certain areas. However, life on the edge of the northern Namib desert also presents difficult challenges. Drought among them. With rains falling further east in recent weeks much of the desert-adapted lions’ home ranges have been largely emptied of available prey. This heightens the possibility that lions will turn to livestock and come into conflict with area farmers. It also means that the lions can suffer to find food.

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Checking In on the Huab Lions

Group of desert-adapted lions near the Huab riverbed.

Rainfall further east is bringing prey further up the Huab riverbed, towards the settlements of De Riet in Torra Conservancy and Rennevoote along the Torra-Doro !Nawas Conservancy border. Over the past week the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Rapid Response Teams have been working alongside staff from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to keeps tabs on lions in the area. With the low density of prey there was some concern that the lions may be struggling to find food. However, extensive video and photographic evidence was reviewed and leading scientists and field practitioners agreed the lions are doing well considering the season and relative lack of rainfall, and thus prey.

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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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