Over the past week, Lion Rangers from Anabeb, Doro !Nawas, Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Torra conservancies joined forces to track and collar conflict-causing lions in Anabeb and Omatendeka conservancies. The lack of adequate rainfall this past year has pushed prey species into the mountains of Kunene, leaving lions and other large carnivores with limited prey options in many areas. This has led to a recent uptick in human-lion conflict (HLC). To support the livelihoods of rural communities and keep lions safe, the Lion Rangers and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) staff engaged in an emergency collaring operation. Additionally, in partnership with veterinarian Dr. Diethardt Rodenwoldt, the Research Team decided to translocate a conflict-causing male from a farming area in the ǂKhoadi-ǁHôas Conservancy.
The Okomimuno pride, which is composed of the lionesses XPL-137, XPL-138, and XPL-139, normally stays close to the farming areas in eastern Anabeb Conservancy. Not known to cause conflict in recent months these three females killed five goats and sheep in the field; this was confirmed by the Anabeb Lion Rangers. Farmers in the area showed patience for living with these conflict-causing lions, but requested the lions’ satellite collars, which were deployed almost two years ago, be replaced to ensure continuous monitoring of the pride is available. Additionally, the Anabeb Lion Rangers had reported that the pride had recently given birth to cubs. Based on the tracking of the Lion Rangers the group was quickly found near the Otjondumbu farming area. XPL-137 and XPL-138 were recollared (XPL-139 was re-collared in July) without incident and both recovered from the immobilization quickly and smoothly. During the operation, the Research Team and Dr. Rodenwoldt were able to monitor XPL-139 and her three new cubs, estimated at less than eight weeks old. All three appear to be doing well, and each member of the pride took turns monitoring and guiding them throughout the night.
Following the Anabeb operation, the team moved to Omatendeka Conservancy for re-collaring one male (OPL-7) who was collared last year but whose collar had failed, and OPL-5, who was first collared in May 2021.
During the collaring operation, the cause for OPL-7’s collar failure was revealed. In October of 2022, GPS/satellite collar information indicated that OPL-7 and OPL-8, brothers normally staying together, came into close contact with XPL-136 and XPL-141, a coalition of males, in Palmwag Concession. Immediately following this close contact, OPL-7’s collar ceased to transmit GPS locations via satellite. It was inferred the four males came into violent conflict with each other. Upon removing OPL-7’s failed collar this inference was given strong support. The top component of the collar, where the satellite modem is encapsulated, was significantly damaged, consonant with the type of damage which could take place during a fight. It is even possible the collar saved OPL-7’s life! Of course, given the intervening months we cannot be certain this is when the damage occurred.
Following the re-collaring of OPL-7 and OPL-5 the team moved to the Klip River area of ǂKhoadi-ǁHôas Conservancy. The Klip River and neighboring areas have seen increasing conflict in recent months. The team’s arrival was timely, as it coincided with the young male, OPL-24, killing two sheep and one goat near the farm Avante Pos. Given the male’s close proximity to the farm and the recent conflict in the area, the decision was taken to translocate him from the area, into the Palmwag Concession. This operation took place during the nighttime hours of 21-22 September, requiring the careful coordination of the entire team to extricate OPL-24 from the mountainous area and safely transport him.
The translocation went smoothly and OPL-24’s movements following the translocation suggest he is beginning to adapt to his new setting well.
Thanks to the entire team for all the hard work; long hours and many sleepless nights.