April was busy for the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Rapid Response teams, as almost the entire month was spent in the field responding to or preventing human-lion conflict (HLC) incidents. As reported by Rapid Response Team Leader and Coordinator Cliff Tjikundi, the Lion Rangers and Rapid Response teams “successfully responded to eight (8) lion conflict incidents/occasions (2 in Sesfontein, 2 in Anabeb, 3 Ehi-rovipuka and 1 in Torra), preventing further [livestock and lion] incidents/losses. The most crucial ones were the two (2) incidents in Sesfontein conservancy, at Ganamub and Elephant song, where the team was actively collecting livestock from the field into kraals at night. In the process two (2) cattle were killed, but this could have been worse as the situation lasted for about two weeks, before the lions returned to the Hoanib river. This was one of those situations where lions find themselves in areas with lot of cattle and are difficult to access with vehicles. The lions seem to use the geography to their advantage to avoid people.” In the past such situations have often resulted in lions being translocated. This process is led by Philip Stander of the Desert Lion Conservation Project (DLC). However, for the first time the Rapid Response teams and Lion Rangers resolved an intensive series of conflicts without the direct assistance of DLC! This is a monumental development in efforts to foster community-based conservation of the desert-adapted lion population. The greater responsibility that the Lion Rangers, Rapid Response teams, and community members can take in fostering safe human-lion interactions, the brighter the prospect for the area’s farmers and lions.
There have also been dramatic improvements concerning lion incidents in Ehi-rovipuka and Omatendeka conservancies, as there were no recorded livestock losses in April. This is due to improved lion monitoring by a team consisting of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), AfriCat North and the Lion Rangers/Rapid Response teams. Efforts in this area have been emphasizing regular patrols and monitoring along the Etosha and Hobatere fences, while community engagement efforts are focusing on developing farmers’ willingness to report lion movements in farming areas.
There was one unfortunate incident in a conservancy that is not working with the Lion Rangers and Rapid Response teams. In this conservancy a mature lioness was shot by conservancy staff while encroaching upon a communal farming area. The long-term effects of this can only thus far be guessed at, but it is likely that the associated pride is going to be struggling over coming months, as their ‘leadership’ has been taken out. This may lead to further HLC as the pride struggles to hunt successfully. We continue to work towards bringing all communities affected by lions under the umbrella of the Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan for North West Namibia.
Overall the Rapid Response teams covered more 3,200 km on patrol and more than 5,300 km monitoring lions and responding to incidents during the month of April. Clearly, the teams are working hard, effectively, and putting in long hours.