A lack of available prey is driving an apparent increase in human-lion conflict (HLC) in northwest Namibia, particularly among lions inhabiting the boundaries of the northern Namib desert. In December 2020, the Lion Rangers partnered with Dr. P. Stander of Desert Lion Conservation to collar the ‘new’ Huab pride. This group of four received the monikers XPL-133, XPL-134, and XPL-135, a fourth unmarked female is also part of the group. In the following months the group has been repeatedly monitored by the Lion Rangers to assess their condition and to help limit conflict at the area of De Riet in Torra Conservancy. This was initially successful. However, as rains began falling further east, the Huab lions were struggling to find available prey. This led to their first recorded conflict incident towards the end of March.
Since that time the Lion Rangers have been working well in the area to keep tabs on the group. However, by mid-April a new challenge presented itself when the group split. XPL-133, who has an Early-Warning collar that informs farmers when she comes near an Early-Warning Tower, departed from tXPL-1345 and XPL-135, who have GPS satellite collars. This meant the Rangers knew her location only when already in the potential conflict area. Vehicle repairs kept some of our teams out of the area for nearly a week. During this time Torra Lion Ranger Erik Gewers performed admirably to lead conflict prevention without vehicle support.
Unfortunately XPL-133’s repeated incursions into the De Riet area resulted in two dogs being killed. It is worth noting that throughout this trying week De Riet residents were steadfast in keeping their livestock kraaled and no livestock were lost.
Over the weekend of April 17-18, IRDNC Human-Wildlife Support Teams did chase XPL-133 from De Riet. Unfortunately she persisted in returning to attempt to take livestock. By midweek MEFT had taken the difficult decision that XPL-133 would be translocated from the area. Partnering with N/a’ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, who agreed to send a vet and team to receive the lioness, MEFT authorized XPL-133’s immediate translocation. At this time the Lion Ranger research team and N/a’ankuse staff immediately deployed to the area. Led by Torra Lion Ranger Gewers, the group performed an intensive tracking of XPL-133, as well as XPL-134, XPL-135, and the unmarked female throughout the Huab area, even reaching as far south as the Twyfelfontein and Burnt Mountain areas.
Despite the team’s best efforts XPL-133 successfully killed a kraaled juvenile donkey at the farm Fonteine on the night of 25 April. She was chased from the farm by its residents who followed-up the next morning by assisting the Lion Rangers in tracking the lioness through the nearby hills and facilitating her being baited nearby the following night so N/a’ankuse vet Maaike de Scheppers could administer the necessary narcotics to facilitate the lionesses translocation. Fonteine farmers are to be particularly commended for their tolerance of the lioness in the area, their patience with the translocation process, and their assistance in helping ensure the baiting and darting went smoothly. It is always terrifying to have a lion enter your farm and the Fonteine farmers performed admirably in assisting the whole team.
At 0347 on 26 April N/a’ankuse took possession of XPL-133. After retrieving her satellite collar and helping her get safely loaded in the N/a’ankuse transport, the Lion Rangers bid farewell to the lioness they have gotten to know so well over recent months. While it is frustrating to lose her to the desert-adapted lion population in Kunene, it is heartening to know that this spate of HLC did not result in XPL-133 being destroyed. Thanks to N/a’ankuse for their commitment of resources and staff on short notice. XPL-133 made the journey safely and early indications are she is doing well in her new home.