Supporting Communities, Conserving Lions
Wow! It has been an amazing six months for the newly re-activated Lion Ranger program. At the end of 2017 our hope was to achieve limited, community-level successes focusing on information sharing concerning lion movements and potential conflict in northwest Namibia. We could not have imagined the enthusiasm from communities, government, NGOs, and the private sector to see the Lion Rangers begin operating. The drive for conserving the desert- adapted lions of northwest Namibia has never been stronger and the need to limit human-lion conflict never clearer. A program aiming to cover ~6,400 km2 across three conservancies, is poised to encompass ~20,000 km2 across eight conservancies by early next year. This expansion is due to local requests for Lion Rangers – word is spreading! The upcoming months will see the program expand its operations, engage in further on-the-ground training, provide greater levels of feedback and support to communities, and up its capacity for field-based data collection.
Reactivating the Lion Ranger program has been a significant challenge, but great progress has been made.Some highlights include:
In January and February, problem-causing lions around the Ugab River were successfully collared and translocated by IRDNC Rapid-Response Team Leader Cliff Tjikundi and Desert Lion Conservation’s Dr. Philip Stander. Thiswas done through extensive community meetings and input.
In February, the Anabeb Lion Rangers, under guidance from MET, led the removal of a problem-causing lion from the Mbokondja farming area. Though it was unfortunate that the lion had to be removed, the Anabeb conservancy benefited greatly by bringing in its contracted profession hunter.
Lion Ranger training took place from 4-11 March. During the classroom sessions Rangers received extensive training from Dr. Philip Stander. Field-work focused on lion identification near conflict sites and extensive discussion among to Ranger to hone the direction of the program. IRDNC and Desert Lion Conservation supported this training.
From 8-13 April MET staff led region-wide community feedback sessions focused on human-lion conflict challenges. These sessions devised priority measures for combatting challenges with communities, placing heavy emphasis on Lion Ranger operations.
At the end of April, the first in a series of Early Warning System towers was erected. These towers are being developed by Desert Lion Conservation and supporting technical crew to provide direct information to farmers in conflict hotspots about lion movements in their area.
In Mid-May the Lion Rangers and Desert Lion Conservation, under direction from MET, successfully collared and translocated a three-year-old male lion out of the Puros Conservancy.
In May and June, an IRDNC Response Team and the Lion Ranger assisted farmers in the Sanitatas and Orupembe conservancies – which to date were not part of the program. Meetings with farmers prevented a destructive human- lion conflict incident and fostered community willingness to engage directly with the Lion Ranger program to ensure sustainable Desert lion conservation.
In June IRDNC hired two additional Rapid-Response Team Leaders, Linus Mbomboro and German Muzuma, who have already begun working with Lion Rangers to mitigate and prevent conflict.
In June the Namibia Nature Foundation joined the Lion Ranger program.