The Lion Rangers, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center and the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), are excited to announce a new lion population monitoring and ecological research project that will commence in 2020. More than two years of work in northwest Namibia has identified a key part of the lion subpopulation of which little is known. Specifically, along the escarpment area free-ranging lions inhabit communal areas but there is little recorded information about the subpopulation size, density, demography, and ecological interactions. Though it is hypothesized that this subpopulation forms an important link between lions in Etosha and the desert-adapted and coastal-roaming lions further west, this is unsubstantiated. Beginning early next, John Heydinger of the Lion Center and Uakendisa Muzuma, MET’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, are leading a team of researchers to begin collecting data on this subpopulation. This project will be based around the Ombonde River catchment, emphasizing lion monitoring within the conservancies of Omatendeka, Ehirovipuka, Anabeb, and #Khoadi-//Koas conservancies, as well as the Etendeka Concession.
In keeping with the mission of the Lion Rangers, this program is being greatly informed by the needs of the communities in the area. Consultation has already taken place with a selection of community leaders, including conservancy committee members, traditional authorities, and area farmers, to develop community-centered research questions and set expectations about feedback and partnerships. The goal is to integrate high-quality scientific research with the tenets of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). As community experts in lion behavior, sociality, and ecology, community Lion Rangers are an integral part of executing this project.
Methods for this project will be field-intensive and include individual identification, extensive vehicle and foot-based tracking, and the use of cameras and collars to monitor movements. We are optimistic that these first two years will serve as the baseline for a longer-term monitoring project geared towards community-oriented research integrating high-quality science with community needs.