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.
Such was the case with XPL-75, who died by euthanasian administered by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) this past week. Since mid-January XPL-75 and her partner XPL-127 had been suffering greatly to find food, as evidenced by the video below.
This dire situation culminated when the two lions entered a farmer’s yard near the Huab river and killed a duck. Two nights later they killed two dogs at a nearby village. Following extensive careful observation by the Lion Rangers, and through consultation with MEFT staff, MEFT management made the decision that XPL-75 be euthanized. This decision was fully supported by the Lion Ranger leadership team who were consulted extensively. The decision was made due to her critical body condition and the concern that her continued presence posed an acute threat to the safety of area farmers.
The procedure was performed by an MEFT vet in partnership with members of the Lion Rangers who had been monitoring the pair for more than a week. It was done humanely and quickly. Initial results from a post-mortem indicate the lioness was suffering from the advanced stages of starvation. Further blood and tissue analyses are underway.
One of the challenges of wildlife conservation is to know when it is appropriate to intervene, and when to let ‘nature’ take its course. When human safety is an issue matters only become more complicated. The Lion Rangers and their community and government partners take the charge of monitoring, managing, and even protecting the desert-adapted lions very seriously. It is our rule to make evidence-based decisions with the long-term survival of the desert-adapted lion population within communal land as the primary goal.
The local communities are thanked for assisting in monitoring and patience to ensure this work was carried out safely. MEFT staff demonstrated professionalism throughout and are thanked for their partnership and confidence in the Lion Rangers.