Over the weekend, a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York Citytested 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.
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.
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.
Conservation of northwest Namibia’s lions is more than just
time in field. Management planning and policy development is critical to the successful
long-term conservation of the population. The Northwest Lion Working Group (NWLWG)
spearheads policy development, management decisions, and the development of
field protocol and methodology for all aligned governmental, community, and NGO
actors helping to conserve the lions in northwest Namibia and limit human-lion conflict.
On 7 May, 2019, the NWLWG gathered in Swakopmund to review progress over the
past year, plan for field activities for the rest of 2019, hear presentations
from potential partners, review policy and make recommendations to the Ministry
of Environment and Tourism (MET). This meeting was chaired by Kenneth //Uiseb,
the MET Deputy Director of Scientific Services and Uakendisa Muzuma, the MET
Large-Carnivore Coordinator who also chairs the NWLWG Technical Committee.