Throughout December and early January, the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa conservancies joined staff from Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, as well as volunteers from each conservancy to begin – and complete! – construction of the Lion Rangers new home in the Ombonde catchment area. The Ombonde Research and Monitoring Camp (ORMC) will be the new field base for the Lion Rangers and other conservancy field staff working in the Ombonde area.
The ORMC is located in an important human-lion conflict corridor. Standing between the core wildlife areas of Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Anabeb conservancies, centered around the waterholes of Otjomombonde and Okavariona/Otjiapa, and the farming areas of Arizona and Onguta, basing at the ORMC allows the Lion Rangers to perform foot- and vehicle-based patrols into these core wildlife areas while also keeping tabs on local livestock movements. Furthermore, the ORMC is nearby the Hobatere Concession, home to at least 24 adult lions who frequently cross through the Hobatere fence onto communal land. The Namibian Lion Trust oversees monitoring of the lions in Hobatere and adjacent lands and partners with the Lion Rangers to limit human-lion conflict in the area. Staff and volunteers from the Namibian Lion Trust also assisted in the construction of the new research and monitoring camp.
This humble new camp will nevertheless serve as a critical gathering point for patrols, place to meet-with and host conservancy and external partners, central storage facility for equipment, and even has space for an office for researchers to perform analysis and write-ups without departing the field. The logistics and specificities of the practice of remote wildlife conservation are rarely emphasized, but such modest camps as this one are critical to the execution of community-based wildlife conservation such as the Lion Ranger program. The construction of the camp has been generously supported by the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia, which is also supporting a variety of other Lion Ranger-led initiatives – watch this virtual space for further updates.
The new camp is outfitted with a small solar power system and receives water from a nearby borehole which is also shared with local wildlife. To ensure security from predators it is ringed with chain link and the water tanks are illuminated each night to dissuade the local elephants from damaging the infrastructure.
Even during construction the Lion Rangers were performing foot-based patrols throughout the area. Watch this space for further updates on our research in the Ombonde, which is being generously supported by the National Geographic Society Big Cats Initiative.