Bertus is a lion ranger in Puros – his task is to monitor the lions in the area, serve as an ambassador for the lions in the community and to try to deter the lions when needed. He and his colleague look after other species like giraffe or elephants.
As TOSCO provides funding towards the lion ranger programme in Puros, we receive regular updates from them. Here is the latest one, with the happy news that the lions in the area did not cause trouble and that (some) desert elephants are back in Puros.
“As from March till to date the lions did not make any harm nor threat, we are facing the big drought within the Puros conservancy, due to the drought our elephants migrate to Hoanib and some went the Hoarusib river up further north in middle of March. In the beginning of May we are now happy that the Hoarusib elephants and some from Otjiu west are back, they are around in Puros area.
Bertus, Puros lion ranger
The elephants had all but disappeared from Puros and it has been suspected that they had migrated to Ongongo and other areas. Several reasons could be responsible for this:
- the drought which has been persisting in Puros already since 2006
- tourism: An elephant cow got shot by the authorities in 2011 after a tourist got killed by elephants when he walked into a herd with a very small calf. Also, the elephants get agitated by motor vehicles (including motor bikes – we have received reports that they can be a major disturbance for wildlife) that at certain times heavily frequent the Hoarusib river. All this might contribute to the elephants not feeling safe (some still remember the poaching in the 1980s) and are thus inclined to vacate the area, at least for a while. They then might move to areas where people are more hostile towards them. We have put together a few tips on how to be safe around elephants. and keep the elephants safe.
- human/ elephant conflict: Communities who perceive the elephants as a threat to their lives and livelihoods (they raid crops or destroy water infrastructure) and who do not know how to help themselves otherwise, shoot at them. TOSCO is in touch with conservation organisations like EHRA (Elephant Human Relations Aid) and Desert Elephant Conservations, who are trying to find ways for mitigation. A field study done by EHRA has revealed that many locals actually have a deep rooted veneration for elephants.