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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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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Lions in Etosha: A Brief History

Lions have long inhabited Namibia’s Etosha National Park. Over the past half-century their numbers have fluctuated greatly. Gail Thomson, of the Namibian Chamber of the Environment‘s publication Conservation Namibia, recently published a blogpost distilling much of the history of lions in Etosha. This post recaps a recent paper co-authored by Lion Rangers’ Research Director John Heydinger, along with Craig Packer and Paul Funston, which was published in 2022 by the Namibian Journal of Environment. You can view the whole paper here. Thanks to the Namibian Chamber of Environment for highlighting this research.

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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Population Survey Week 7: Eastern Conservancies

OPL-38 with zebra carcass, December 2022.

We begin the eastern portion of the Northwest Lion Population Survey focusing on the conservancies of ≠Khoadi-//Hoas, Omatendeka, and Orupupa. For these remaining weeks, three teams are responsible for different areas along the escarpment and bordering Etosha National Park. In recent years this has been the main area of human-lion conflict in the northwest, as well as containing the majority of lions in Kunene. During this first week we observed and photographed lions across the area – the groups appear to be thriving.

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Population Survey Week 6: Approaching the Escarpment

Desert-adapted lions in Etendeka Concession.

The final week of the western portion of the NW Lion Population Survey saw all four teams turning their attention towards the eastern part of the Kunene lion’s range. To cross from west to east means surmounting the African escarpment, moving from the coastal area into highlands. As such, each team spent extensive time climbing mountainous terrain, often in temperatures exceeding 38 degrees C (101 F). As we close the western portion of the survey we are happy to see the desert-adapted lion population is weathering the drought and diminished prey numbers. With new groups of cubs and many females pregnant we believe the future bodes well.

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Population Survey Week 4: Southern Expanses

Uncollared desert-adapted lioness near Omakuara waterhole.

After a short weekend break, the Northwest Lion Population Survey resumed. Refreshed teams of Lion Rangers, teaming with MEFT staff and researchers, began executing a plan to cover the desert-adapted lions range all the way to its southern extent of the Ugab River. Having strengthened our methods through three weeks of completed work, the teams set-off with a clearer picture of how to most efficiently and effectively cover the landscape. While the first three weeks focused on areas of extremely low lion population density, we anticipate the coming weeks to yield even more sightings and unexpected encounters with unknown individuals.

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Population Survey Week 3: Northern Palmwag

Male desert-adapted lion, Palmwag Concession.

The Northwest Lion Population Survey continues into its third week. The Palmwag Concession is an important source of desert-adapted lions in Kunene. From this core many lions disperse to adjacent communal areas. Intensively monitored by Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust, to combat rhino-poaching activities, the springs of Palmwag are well-known and SRT trackers serve as an important locus of information concerning lions’ movements. Though the Concession itself has few major rivers, notably the Aub, Barab and Uniab, the springs help maintain a robust population of prey species.

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