Monitoring and Collaring

Desert-adapted lioness, OPL-4, Ombonde Research Area.

An important part of continuous monitoring of the desert-adapted lions is ensuring GPS/satellite collars stay up to date. Collars become damaged and batteries run low, necessitating upkeep and replacement. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and with support from GEF and WWF-Namibia, the Lion Rangers have been actively re-collaring lions around the Ombonde Research Area over the past week. The purpose of these activities are both to continue ongoing research of the desert-adapted lions, as well as ensuring proactive management of human-lion conflict, which remains the number one cause of mortality for non-cub lions in northwest Namibia.

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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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Exchange Visit and Replacing Collars

Immobilized desert-adapted lions, Hobatere Concession, November 2021.

During the past week, the Lion Rangers were visited by a delegation of community conservationists from the Omusati, Oshana, and Oshikoto regions. This exchange visit, motivated and supported by the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia (CCFN), served as a first point of contact to gauge the feasibility of expanding the Lion Ranger program to the communal areas north of Etosha National Park. Lions frequently leave the northern Etosha boundary to prey-upon pastoralists’ livestock, and are often killed as a result.

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October Collaring in Ombonde

Omatendeka Lion Ranger, Kandavii Nguezeeta, tracking lions in the Ombonde Research Area, in preparation for collaring, October 2021.

Over the past week, the Lion Rangers have been partnering with Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) game capture and veterinary staff to collar lions in the Ombonde Research Area. Following the recent poisoning of lions nearby here, including one male lion collared in the area in May, continuing to monitor lion movements in the area is considered a high priority.

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Collaring in Hobatere

MEFT staff and the Lion Rangers, collaring a lioness in the rugged hills of Hobatere Concession, October 2021.

Over the past week, the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, #Khoadi-//Hôas, and Omatendeka conservancies have been assisting Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) game capture and Etosha veterinary staff, to collar lion in the Hobatere Concession area. Because lions move freely, in-and-out of the concession, lions often residing in Hobatere can also cause potential human-lion conflict on neighboring communal lands. In total five lions were fitted with satellite-GPS and Early-Warning collars – data are already incoming.

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Camera Trap Project

Camera trap image of collared male lion near Ombonde research area.

Beginning in mid-May, the Lion Rangers have been deploying trail cameras near the Ombonde research area to assess the local lion population. This research, led by Dr. John Heydinger of the University of Minnesota, is being performed under the supervision of, and in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), and has been authorized by the Namibia National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST). This camera trap project is part of an ongoing effort to learn more about the crucial desert-adapted lion subpopulation inhabiting the broader Ombonde landscape.

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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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Rapid Assessment of NW Lion Population

Cub desert-adapted lion, Ombonde Research Area.

On 10 May the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) commissioned a rapid assessment of the status and condition of the desert-adapted lion population. Spanning the central (north-to-south) part of the desert-adapted lion range, this rapid assessment is being undertaken by staff from MEFT, Desert Lion Conservation, Namibian Lion Trust, the Lion Rangers, and Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and is being supported by Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO).

Teams of Lion Rangers are currently at work in the conservancies of Anabeb, Omatendeka, Sesfontein, and Torra, as well as Etendeka Concession, assessing the body condition of as many desert-adapted lions as possible, as well as available prey and rainfall information to make proactive decisions about the lion population of northwest Namibia. This is in addition to the ongoing work of the Lion Rangers which is still underway.

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Patrols in Ombonde

Clouds gathering near base camp.

The rains are bringing unforeseen wildlife movements to the northwest, increasing the importance of active patrol to better account for lion, wildlife, and livestock movements. Last week’s Lion Ranger patrol in the Ombonde research and monitoring area emphasized uncovering seasonal waterpoints to better anticipate prey and lion movements during the rainy season.

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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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