This past week 32 Lion Rangers from 11 conservancies attended our third Lion Ranger training at Wêreldsend Environmental Centre in northwest Namibia. The training, organized by IRDNC and chaired by Rapid Response Teams Coordinator Cliff Tjikundi, focused on bringing both new Rangers and those now long-established, and setting the course for the upcoming year.
Since our first training, the Lion Ranger program has grown from 11 Rangers in three conservancies. The program’s broader geographic scope and larger number of Rangers and program partners is necessitating new approaches to streamlining communication and ensuring consistent data collection across nearly 22,000 sq. km. All without losing site of limiting human-lion conflict and moving towards community-centered conservation of the desert-adapted lions.
During training Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation provided information on lion biology, behavior, and how to gauge lion response when approaching them. As Co-Founder of the Lion Rangers, Dr. Stander has been central to developing new means of limiting human-lion conflict and in developing Ranger field techniques.
The four days together also provided productive time to discuss program objectives and to elicit Ranger feedback on program activities in their conservancies. The Rangers are our eyes and ears on the ground and they play a central role in developing our approaches to limiting human-lion conflict.
During training the entire team responded to an incident in nearby Torra Conservancy, where a lioness had taken a dog from a farm the previous night. This unfortunate event was used to help instruct Rangers on the importance of collecting thorough data and, in particular, to take the time to listen carefully and compassionately to farmers who may have just suffered a traumatic event. This incident served as grist for a conversation later in the day on the importance of developing empathetic and friendly relationships with area farmers – all towards the goals of increasing tolerance for lions and limiting human-lion conflict.
We are planning for skills-based small-group trainings later in the year, which will address conservancy-specific challenges as well as capacitating Ranger skills around such activities as community leadership and technical skills around the use of trail cameras.