New research from Lion Ranger program co-founder John Heydinger has recently been published online by Environment and History, one of the leading academic journals for environmental historians. You can read the entire article here.
Heydinger draws together a variety of historical sources to show the long history of livestock in power and politics in northwest Namibia. Focusing on the early South African colonial period, he shows how the colonial government sought to control livestock mobility as a manner of controlling disease and attempting to dominate the regional economy. On its surface, this may seem ancillary to concerns of human-lion conflict. However, the historical context of government interventions in the area, in particular surrounding control over livestock, is central to understanding the ongoing difficulties in limiting human-livestock-lion conflict. Livestock are central to the economy of northwest Namibia, and, as Heydinger shows, have long been central to ovaHerero (Herero and Himba) cultural identity. This history is important because it reminds local conservationists that livestock loss to lions has effects that transcend economics. Additionally, lion conservation interventions should be cognizant of the long history of attempted government policy impositions in the area. Community-centered wildlife conservation should avoid the mistakes of the past and the Lion Ranger program is, among other things, envisioned as a mechanism for overcoming historical environmental and social inequity within northwest Namibia. Historical understandings are central to our work. Further publications linking the history of northwest Namibia to the ongoing challenges of human-lion conflict are currently under review and in development.