The Lion Ranger programme, co-founded by Russell Vinjevold, Dr. John Heydinger and Dr. Philip Stander, supports ongoing research and human-lion conflict mediation, mitigation, and management efforts in the Kunene Region of northwest Namibia. Their goal is the long-term sustainable management of human-lion conflict by communities in northwest Namibia to ensure continued desert-adapted lion survival and community benefit.
The number one threat to desert-adapted lions is retaliation following human-lion conflict – the Lion Ranger program aims to remove this threat. The Lion Ranger programme unifies communal, governmental, and non-governmental stakeholders by bringing together community, government, NGO, and research stakeholders for adaptive, sustainable management, with particular emphasis on human-lion conflict challenges.
The programme focuses on a community-based approach: the Lion Rangers are conservancy-employed game guards who receive special training and equipment to lead efforts in combating conflict between humans and lions on communal land. TOSCO supports the Lion Ranger Program with lion ranger training, monthly top-up bonuses (both through the support of the CCFN- Community Conservation Fund of Namibia) as well as with logistic and coordination support.
Not all conservancies benefit from revenues of tourism activities within their borders. However, most of them do have wildlife on their land, and need to employ community game guards.
They are the “boots on the ground” and play a crucial role patrolling, monitoring wildlife and other resources, anti-poaching and law enforcement. They also contribute to annual game counts that give an indication of the status and distribution of wildlife.
Over the past years, their work has led to increased understanding amongst locals of the resources in their area and how to manage and utilise them in a sustainable manner. TOSCO sponsors game guards in north-western conservancies with equipment to enable them to carry out their important duties.
The Conservation Contribution Programme is a scheme that creates value out of iconic wildlife species for rural communities, by giving tour operators and film crews the opportunity to compensate communities for looking after the wildlife that they benefit from. Tour operators pay a daily fee of N$100 per visitor, which TOSCO collects on behalf of the respective conservancy at the end of the financial year. In consultation with the conservancy, TOSCO supports projects that focus on mitigating human-wildlife conflict by supporting communal game guards and creating value out of wildlife for communities. To establish an official relationship, TOSCO has signed MoU’s with each conservancy that is involved in the Programme. Today, ten conservancies in the northwest of Namibia are part of the Conservation Contribution Programme, and its number is still growing. The De-Riet information - and craft centre in Torra Conservancy is one of the projects that was made possible through funds collected by this Programme. Here, tourists can find information on how the conservancy operates and the wildlife they can find in the area, book a local guide to track desert-dwelling elephants, learn about the Riemvasmaker history and culture, and purchase refreshments and local crafts. With funds from the Conservation Contribution Programme, TOSCO also supported equipment and uniforms for game guards in Sesfontein, Puros, Tsiseb, Khoadi Hoas, Doro !Nawas, Anabeb and Ehi-Rovipuka Conservancies.
Local communities bear the costs of living with wildlife, while there is a whole wildlife economy with various stakeholders that benefit from wildlife. Conventional income streams such as tourism and trophy hunting alone are not sufficient to enable Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) to succeed, thus a new, additional income stream is being developed, called Wildlife Credits. Through this concept, WWF Namibia and partner organizations and supported by WWF Netherlands, aim to decrease the dependency on NGOs for wildlife protection. This concept is a type of PES (payment for ecosystem services) and compensates communities who are the custodians of wildlife, for verifiable conservation results. Wildlife Credits encourages businesses within the wildlife economy to pay for the privilege of profiting from wildlife, including those within the tourism value chain. Once tourism revives, it will continue relying on the conservation of iconic wildlife species, as they are one of the main attractions for visitors to Namibia. However, it needs purpose-driven tourism that can indeed significantly and effectively contribute to the sustainable protection of wildlife. TOSCO has been contracted to develop the Wildlife Credits concept and identify financing mechanisms within the tourism value chain linked to Namibia, to generate funds for Wildlife Credits schemes.