During Lion Ranger training, Dr. Philip Stander provided a practical field exercise the new Rangers will never forget. A group of six lions have been moving through the Torra Conservancy and Palmwag Concession, concerning locals and conservationists alike. It was only a matter of time before this uncollared group caused problems.
Led by IRDNC’s Rapid Response Team Leader Linus Mbomboro, a group of Lion Rangers spent two days scouring the area for fresh evidence of this group. Along the way they even assisted local law enforcement: providing information on suspected unauthorized hunting in the area. Once spoor of the lions was found, the team tracked them into the mountains and radioed back to World’s End Environmental Centre, where training was underway. Dr. Stander and the Lion Ranger trainees joined them that evening. Dr. Stander worked to safely immobilize the lions while the trainees discussed appropriate and safe methods for luring, collaring, and transporting lions (if necessary).
Just after sundown three lions were immobilized. Working under the direction of Dr. Stander, the Lion Rangers assisted the fitting of two Early-Warning system collars and one satellite collar to two females and one male. Collaring is always a difficult process but everyone acted professionally and the whole procedure was accomplished. Both lions and people were safe throughout.
The next morning Dr. Stander walked the Lion Rangers through video of the collared lions which he recorded the night before. This was invaluable as it allowed the Rangers to view undisturbed lions acting and interacting with one another.
Already the new collars are paying dividends for local farmers. Late in February an Early-Warning went out to the area’s farmers that the lions were moving close to the homesteads. The system so far is successful: no livestock lost.
These is still a lot of work to do, but we are optimistic that successful exercises like this one are building a stronger foundation for limiting human-lion conflict on communal land in northwest Namibia.
Thanks to the National Geographic Society and IRDNC for supporting this training.