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The Explorations Company becomes a stakeholder of the Lion Recovery Fund operating in Namibia

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
11 Dec 2018
Namibia - Desert Lioness with cubs.jpg

Life for any desert adapted species in Namibia is harsh due to the relentless, barren terrain. But for an apex predator such as a lion, this is increasingly difficult as they reside in harsh, low prey areas with little water.

A desert dwelling lioness in Namibia who has a litter of cubs can travel 60 kms to find her nearest prey. It can take her five days to find the prey and return to her cubs, by which time they may have been killed or starved to death. Incorporate an additional factor such as human wildlife conflict when through desperation, the lion might kill a domestic livestock and one starts to feel more than just a little sorry for these majestic beasts.

 

This is why the emotion and experience of seeing a desert dwelling creature such as the desert lion in Namibia surpasses any other wildlife experience altogether. It is hugely emotional, watching these animals battle out each day purely for survival with such fortitude, whilst their counterparts living in Etosha or the Bwa Batwa National Park or in Botswana have substantial numbers of prey living around them, affording relatively easy access and hunting success.

Watch the video of the Vanishing Kings by world authority on felids, Dr Flip Stander. The Namib Desert lion has reached the numbers of around 100 along the Kaokoveldt region largely in part to one man – Flip – who has dedicated his life to the study and preservation of these animals.

Hugely underfunded, he has crusaded through this region with his Land cruiser which serves as his home and his office. He undertakes all the veterinary work himself and is responsible for the collaring’s of them. This is largely the reason for The Explorations Company wanting to assist in a positive manner, which is why we became a stakeholder by donating to the Lion Relief Fund.

 


What is the solution?

  • Providing lion proof kraals for livestock for local farmers
  • Providing an early warning system through the fitting of GPS collars to lions
  • For farmers to receive compensation for any livestock destroyed
  • Education for the local people to understand the financial benefits of protecting wildlife

This is a synopsis of the work this programme has effected over the last six months:

The thrust of this Lion Recovery Funds ‘s  effort is to respond to escalating Human Lion Conflict in the short-term whilst simultaneously developing long-term mitigating measures as well as exploring incentives for communities living with lion. 

This pressing need grows out of increasing human-lion conflict (HLC) in the Kaokoveldt/Damaraland region stemming from the success of Community-Based Natural Resource Management in conserving the region’s unique desert-adapted lion population. Increasing HLC is an urgent and immediate threat to these lions and farmers’ livelihoods. We feel the Lion Support Programme can address these problems sustainably.

 


The team’s footprint has expanded substantially with response to incidents and patrolling being executed in the Kaokoveld area. These include responses to incidents, regular patrolling, meeting with farmers and on occasion assisting with maintaining boundary fences to stop lions from entering the community farming areas.  They are developing a park which will provide an additional 10 000 hectares of secure and safe habitat for lions (and other species).

The 2017/18 rain season produced generally average widespread rains, although the western areas still have little new growth. The 2018 annual fixed route counts data has not yet been released, however, we can state that game/prey numbers are still low. This to be expected after 4 years of drought.

The distribution of prey species has also changed somewhat with concentrations occurring in areas where the first good rains fell. There has been a distinct move or shift in the lions’ distribution as well, this corresponding to the prey species. Some prides of lions are compensating for the lack of local prey by covering enormous distances. Two of the lions tracked were found and two new Early Warning collars fitted.

 


The Rapid Response Team is now at full strength. The third facilitator is currently driving an old and unreliable vehicle. However, we have sourced funding for a new vehicle and this should be obtained in October/November. Basic equipment, binoculars, spotlights, GPS, headlight, bedroll, tent, chair, 12v fridge have been purchased and will make a huge difference to operational efficiency. Teams will now be able to spend longer extended time in the bush.

There has been extensive training of the Team and associated rangers at every opportunity. Most of this has been done on site at actual scenarios. This includes response situations, patrolling, immobilizing and working with lions and meeting with stakeholders. This ongoing training is seen as a high priority.

Community Game Guards and/or Lion Rangers accompany every patrol. This for training purposes and giving local conservancies “ownership” of the programme.

As on 09 October 2018, some twenty of the new Early Warning System collars have been fitted to lions. This is an ongoing priority and the systems’ expected efficiency depends on at least another 30 collars being fitted.

So far this year this project has been responsible for the construction of five new predator proof kraals.

 


During the period under review there have been three meetings, all conducted timeously and very useful indeed. Issues discussed relate to response protocols, Early Warning Systems and their implementation, community attitude strategies for surveying areas not currently being researched and protocols surrounding the dissemination of sensitive information (particularly “live” information on lion’s whereabouts).

Challenges

The vast area we operate in remains a major challenge. This demands an enormous amount of mileage monthly and long dedicated time in the field. Some equipment still needs to be sourced, this includes a sat phone, cameras and a mobile small projector for giving presentations to communities. More funding is required to jump-start the lion rangers and provide impetus to this line of mitigation.

Training and Outreach

As mentioned previously, this aspect is pivotal in our approach to the project. Staff are acutely aware of this and every opportunity is used to talk to and involve community.

Tremendous headway has been made and we need to keep this going. Continuity is critical to the success of this programme.

Planned targets for next six month period

The next year must focus on consolidating our efforts and providing consistency throughout. The Early Warning System is important and we hope to have at least 6 towers at selected villages and at least another 20 lions collared. We are hoping for at least another 6 predator proof kraals to be constructed. We have developed new data collection forms which we started using in July. These will be entered into a data base and provide useful information for reporting as well as evidence-based decisions around lion management and HLC mitigation. These three forms capture information on

  • Tracking/sightings
  • Communication
  • Response

 


We can facilitate donations to this excellent cause, please call us on + 44 1367 850566

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