27 April, 2018 – First Early-Warning Tower Erected

This past week Desert Lion Conservation, in partnership with the Lion Rangers, IRDNC, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, erected the first Early-Warning System tower at Driefonteine in the Torra Conservancy. Based on pioneering research by Dr. Philip Stander, the Early-Warning System integrates new innovations in GPS-collar technology with critical community-development progress made in the form of the Lion Ranger program. The goal is to provide farmers at human-lion conflict ‘hotspots’ with relevant information about lion movements in their area. Driefonteine has suffered from human-lion conflict incidents for more than twenty years, and was thus identified by both lion monitoring data and community survey information, as a critical location to have an Early-Warning System in operation.

On Friday, 27 April, the Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mr. Pohamba Penomwenyo Shifeta, visited Driefonteine where Cliff Tjikundi of IRDNC and some of the Lion Rangers presented the working capacities of the Early-Warning System. A crucial knock-on effect of the System is to support strong relationships between Ministry officials and local farmers as they work together to combat human-lion conflict. We thank the Minister for his visit and look forward to continuing to work closely with MET.

Alfues Ouseb, Gisela Ouses, and Nick Steenkamp stand by their new Early-Warning System tower.

8-13 April, 2018 – Ministry Human-wildlife Conflict Mediation Scoping

Human-wildlife conflict has been a persistent and pressing problem in northwest Namibia. Over the past years many different stakeholders have been working together and with communities to mitigate and prevent further issues. Since the publication of the Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan last year, many of the crucial stakeholders have been strengthening their ties and aligning their efforts. This past week has been a stirring example of the type of progress that can be made when we work together. Over six days a group of researchers, IRDNC and MET staff visited the Torra, Puros, Sesfontein, Omatendeka, Ehi-rovipuka, and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies to provide feedback to communities and receive on-the-ground input into the best ways forward for addressing human-wildlife conflict. There is no substitute for getting community feedback to prioritize the way forward.

Substantive input from the communities focused on the need for early-warning systems concerning lion movements and an emphasis on mobilizing Lion Rangers. There was much thoughtful discussion around the fire each night, spearheaded by project leader Jonas Heita, concerning the role of government in supporting rural communities, and how different stakeholders can build resilient, sustainable systems for addressing human-wildlife conflict in its myriad forms.

Thanks to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for prioritizing this work and organizing the trip. Thanks to all the conservancies for their thoughts and hospitality.

 

27 March, 2018 – Human-lion Conflict Meeting, Anabeb Conservancy

Today, representatives from IRDNC and the Lion Rangers met with members of the Anabeb committee and conservancy staff. A very positive discussion focused on how community conservation can be supported going forward. While human-lion conflict continues to be a pressing difficulty in the Conservancy, field staff are working diligently to monitor carnivore populations and limit conflict.

Our productive conversation highlighted the need for better information-sharing and continued capacity development for conservancy staff. Of course, the hard-won field experience of Game Guards and Lion Rangers has a lot to teach us as well. Today’s meeting was just another step forward in creating meaningful, sustainable solutions to human-lion conflict. Living alongside lions remains a challenge, but the community joins us in agreeing that evidence-based management which is community-centered is a strong way forward.

Thanks to Chairman Titus Rungundo and all the staff of the Anabeb Conservancy for hosting us.

4-11 March, 2018 – Lion Ranger Training, World’s End and Mbokondja

This past week, twelve Lion Rangers, three field coordinators, two researchers, and three staff members gathered to formally inaugurate and begin operations of the Lion Ranger Program. Our week of training consisted of ‘classroom’ work to brush-up on lion ecology, an overview of lion conservation across Africa, and an examination of the background and ways forward concerning human-lion conflict in the region. The Rangers themselves were invaluable contributors to all information sharing and provided a wealth of field experience drawing upon their years serving as Conservancy Game Guards. While we recognize that lion conservation and limiting human-lion conflict in Kunene is a journey, not a destination, all agreed that the program, still so young, is making great strides. Continue reading

22 February, 2018 – (Back) at Mbokondja

When it rains, it pours. Having recently addressed a difficult ‘problem’ lion situation at the Mbokondja farms, Anabeb’s Lion Rangers are once again busy with another adult male lion in the same area. Over the past week we were deployed, along with Anabeb Lion Ranger Linus Mbomboro, to Mbokondja for three days and nights of patrol and tracking to ensure that the area’s new resident was not endangering livestock or people. This yielded lots of lion sign, but not a clear sighting of the lion by either the Rangers or locals. This is a good indication that, while the male is moving around the area, he may feel uncomfortable being near homesteads during the day, and unable to predate livestock during the night. Great news!

By the end of our time the male was tracked into the mountains heading into the Palmwag Concession, where he appears to have met another, younger, lion. The pair appear to have set-off together. (Cliff Tjikundi, the Human-Wildlife Rapid Response Team Leader for IRDNC is currently patrolling the Mbokondja area.)

We take the past week as positive evidence of progress in implementing the Lion Rangers as effective agents in preventing human-lion conflict. The community members were appreciative and showed a clear willingness to work alongside the Rangers – we were even joined by Mr Karutjaiva who joined us for more than 10 km of lion tracking one morning.

Thanks to the community at Mbokondja for making us welcome, Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism officials for their assistance, and the Namibian Police for sharing their quarters with us.

15 February, 2018 – NACSO Workshop, Wereldsend

Over the past three days we were joined at our Wereldsend (World’s-End) base camp by members of NACSO (Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organizations), the Namibia Development Fund, and the Kunene Regional Communal Conservation Association (KRCCA) for a wide-ranging workshop on issues of governance and capacity-development in the northern Kunene conservancies.

Issues of particular interest were the funding made available from the Green Climate Fund for combating possible climate change challenges in the northern Kunene and the importance of growing conservancy capacity for interacting with government. NACSO encouraged conservancies to band-together under conservancy organizations to submit proposals to buttress infrastructure and develop livestock husbandry techniques that will be more resilient under uncertain climate regimes. Governance engagement was covered by Theo of the Namibia Development Fund who emphasized the importance of effective communication between communities and government to implement needed policy changes.

At the workshop John presented the progress of the Lion Ranger program within the focal lion-range conservancies. This presentation was a follow-up to one given to the KRCCA in July of last year. The primary purpose of the presentation was to provide an update on progress in mitigating and preventing human-lion conflict and ensure that the community remains informed about relevant lion issues. It was heartening to hear the positive feedback from attendees about the progress that is already being made.

Thanks to NACSO for organizing the conference, and for the Wereldsend Staff, Wandi Tsanes, John Steenkamp, Alfeus Ouseb, and Leonard Steenkamp for their hospitality.

10 February, 2018 – NACSO Workshop

 

Today we attended a workshop with the Erongo and Southern Kunene conservancies, hosted by NACSO. This workshop aimed at strengthening the skills of the conservancy associations, particularly in regards to issues of advocacy, communications, and tourism development. At the conference John presented an overview of human-lion conflict in Kunene and introduced the Lion Ranger program. This new program was enthusiastically greeted by participants, who nevertheless have concerns about the future of living with a lions. A productive discussion followed in which attendees stressed the importance of engaging local perspectives in proactive lion management across Kunene.

 

Thanks to NACSO for putting together this great workshop and to Uibasen-Twyfelfontein Conservancy for hosting us.

 

8 February, 2018 – Mbokondja ‘problem lion’

For more than three weeks, the Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers monitored a ‘problem lion’ near the Mbokondja farm. This male, age 6-8 years, killed two small stock in January and had since taken-up seemingly permanent residence nearby the farm. Clearly this worries the area’s residents. Teaming closely with IRDNC and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Anabeb’s Lion Rangers worked around-the-clock for three weeks to monitor this lion and prevent further livestock losses. While this lion has been well-known to Desert Lion Conservation’s Dr. Philip Stander who had collared it long before, the collar unfortunately had ceased to respond. Due to Dr. Stander’s extensive responsibilities in the vast Kunene, he had been unable to re-dart the lion and reactivate the collar in past months.

The Lion Rangers are a newly reactivated program employing experienced conservancy-appointed residents to monitor a conservancy’s lions and mitigate and prevent human-lion conflict (HLC). They are part of a multi-pronged approach to foster greater community involvement in lion management and ensure that communities play a substantive role in mitigating and preventing HLC.

This program has grown in response to MET’s call for a comprehensive northwest HLC management plan, which was released last September. Responding to public pressure, MET recognized that HLC in the western Kunene conservancies has become untenable. One positive outcome of this plan has been a series of social-ecological surveys of farmers in the conservancies of Anabeb, Puros, and Sesfontein. These surveys have quantified livestock losses to carnivores and identified HLC ‘hotspots’ – areas where problems with lions are particularly acute. One such hotspot so-identified was the farm Mbokondja. This incident with the problem lion serves as a preliminary ‘proof of concept’ that these surveys, when combined with ecological information, can be a useful tool for identifying areas facing a high likelihood of HLC.

With input from the Lion Rangers, MET took the always unfortunate decision that this lion at Mbokondja would have to be destroyed. Thankfully, a team headed by the Lion Rangers, and with critical input from IRDNC, Desert Lion Conservation, and authorization from MET ensured that this was done safely and for conservancy benefit.

While it is saddening that this lion needed to be removed, it is heartening to see what coordinated management can look like. Hopefully this will serve as a model for coordination in addressing HLC going forward in Kunene.

Hats off to the Anabeb Lion Rangers, IRDNC, and MET for a job well done in difficult circumstances.

Anabeb Rangers: Ronald Karutjaiva, Linus Mbomboro, and Phineas Kasaona 

1 February, 2018 – Puros Lion Rangers

Joined by photographer and videographer Alexandra Wattamaniuk, we spent a few days working with the Puros Conservancy Lion Rangers. As part of kick-starting the Lion Ranger program and building-out the soon-to-be-live Lion Ranger website, we spent some time with Rangers Kooti Karutjaiva, Colin Kasupi, and Berthus Tjipombo. These three shared their tracking knowledge and spent time talking about why they think the Lion Rangers’ job is so important. The Puros Lion Rangers are responsible for monitoring lions in the conservancy and for mitigating and preventing human-lion conflict. They are an important part of limiting human-lion conflict in the area and in growing the benefits conservancies receive from living with lions.

We are so happy to work with such a great team and thank Alexandra for her hard work.

 

30 January, 2018 – Lion Recovery Fund Meeting

Over the past five days, Peter Lindsey and Jeffrey Parrish of Wildlife Conservation Network and the Lion Recovery Fund, have visited Namibia to examine and consult concerning the state of national lion conservation. At Wilderness Safaris’ Damaraland Camp, Dr. Philip Stander, Emsie Verway, and I met with Mr. Lindsey and Parrish to discuss the conservation status of Kunene’s Desert lion population and how human-lion conflict is affecting the population’s viability. It was a treat to speak with Mr. Lindsey and Parrish and share in their wide-ranging knowledge on lion conservation. Issues of particular importance were communicating good news about community-focused conservation and growing the arena of concern around desert lions. Dr. Stander and Ms. Verway provided crucial on-the-ground perspectives from their years of work with carnivores in Kunene.

Thanks to Wilderness Safaris for their generosity in hosting all of us.