This past weekend at Wereldsend saw the First Annual Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger Awards (GOSCARs). Generously supported by the Namibia Chamber of Environment, these awards, to honor the memory of the late Garth Owen-Smith, recognize and celebrate the local conservationists who work and walk in the field to ensure the future of Namibia’s natural resources. Honorees exemplify the original concept with which Namibia’s internationally-recognized community-based natural resource management program started: hard work, dedication, and a commitment to unifying rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation.
The Lion Rangers program was eager to nominate our own Rodney Tjavara, who works with Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO), for this prestigious award. We are overjoyed that Rodney’s years of hard work have been recognized by Namibia’s wider conservation community.
Following intensive monitoring and conflict mitigation by the Lion Rangers and other project partners, the difficult decision was taken for the male lion XPL-131 to be removed from the communal areas of Puros and Sesfontein. This decision, undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), at the repeated request of the local communities, was not undertaken lightly, but done so in accordance with Namibian Law (No. 4/1975), prioritizing human-safety when all reasonable human-wildlife conflict mitigation options have been exhausted. The Lion Rangers, local communities, and MEFT, take the responsibility of safeguarding Namibia’s wildlife incredibly seriously.
Lion Rangers in the Sesfontein and Puros Conservancies have been hard at work over the last few weeks managing a difficult conflict situation. The male lion XPL-131, who normally inhabits the Hoanib riverbed, has gone on something of a walkabout further east through the Giribes Plain, towards the homesteads of the Gomatum riverbed area. Not normally a conflict-causing lion, Lion Rangers Rodney Tjivara, Steven Kasaona, and IRDNC Rapid Response Team Leaders, Allu Uararavi and Cliff Tjikundi have been working tirelessly to ensure this lion does not develop any bad habits, or cost the local farmers livestock. This has long been a farming area and is far afield from the core wildlife areas of Sesfontein and Puros.
This past week the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Human-Wildlife Conflict Response teams headed to the conservancies of Sesfontein and Puros to deploy another pair of early-warning system towers. This innovative new system of collecting, storing, and disseminating lion data was pioneered by Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation and has become an invaluable tool and resource for communal herders in northwest Namibia as they manage the difficulties of living alongside the desert-adapted lions.
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.
It is important that the perspectives of community members are incorporated into management decisions concerning desert-adapted lions on communal land. Residents of communal conservancies who have to pay the price of living with lions deserve to have their voices heard, even amplified. In late 2017 we surveyed a representative sample of livestock owners in core lion-range conservancies to assess local perceptions of living with lions. Since that time, preliminary results from these surveys have informed management recommendations and actions of the Northwest Lion Working Group. Today we are excited to announce the release of this research, which is being published in the journal Biological Conservation.