As the dry season deepens, humans, livestock, and wildlife are on the move in northwest Namibia. This potentially brings lions and other predators into contact with pastoralists in new areas. In the Ehi-rovipuka farming areas west of Hobatere Concession, farmers and their large herds of goats and sheep have recently moved back from wet season grazing areas. To limit the possibility of human-lion conflict, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has prioritized replacing inactive collars within Hobatere. Two lionesses in particular, known as OPL-9 and OPL-10, are the only known lions currently inhabiting Hobatere without active GPS/satellite collars.
Over the past weekend into Monday, the Lion Rangers, under the direction of MEFT Etosha and the leadership of Scientific Services, tracked, identified and successfully collared both OPL-9 and OPL-10, replacing inactive collars with new ones provided through partnership with Desert Lion Conservation Trust. With the help of Dr. Nick Buys, who also performs safe and effective lion immobilization for Namibian Lion Trust, we added these important collars to the already three active GPS/satellite collars in Hobatere.
GPS/satellite collars are an important part of the Lion Rangers maintaining up-to-the hour information on lion movements within and around communal farming areas. They also are an important part of ongoing research focusing on lion grouping patterns and spatial ecology. While the lions are safely immobilized the research team also collects basic physiological information including photos of vibrissae (whisker spots) which, along with demographic information and other defining characteristics, can be used to identify individual lions. These data are playing an important part in setting the stage for the forthcoming Northwest Lion Population Survey, slated to begin in November 2022.
Another piece of good news from Hobatere: no fewer than four cubs under the age of one year old were present with this group of five adults. All indications are the cubs are thriving. They may serve as the foundation for lions in Hobatere and neighboring areas for many years to come.