Over the last three months (May to July), IRDNC’s Human Wildlife Support Unit completed a total of 26 responses and 19 patrols, footmarking over 8,870 km of the Kunene Region. This is an impressive record by the Unit’s team of three vigilant chaps, Cliff Tjikundi, Chief German Muzuma and Mr. Linus Mbomboro, often joined by MET and Conservancy Game Guards who are trained Lion Rangers. These response (and monitoring) activities mostly involve tracking predator movements and notifying farmers of any apprehensions, while patrol activities involve regular visits to conflict prone areas known to be in and around Anabeb, Sesfontein, Purros, Omatendeka, and Ehi-Rovipuka Conservancies.
In May the team was repeatedly responding to a very persistent male lion in the Puros-Orupembe area, resulting in its relocation away from Puros, only to come straight back after three days, passing through the Khumeb River towards Orupembe and reaching as far as Rooidrum in the Marrienflus Conservancy. In the month of June, the team assisted with the annual game counts in the northwest lion areas (Torra, Anabeb, Sesfontein, Ehi-rovipuka, Purros, Otjikondavirongo), as part of the region’s lion monitoring strategy. A meeting was held in Swakopmund to further refine strategies concerning the North-West Lion Management Plan, including implementation plans by stakeholders, decisions on best practices, funding, sustainability, and security of the systems. In July, the team continued with lion monitoring and response activities with Lion Rangers and MET, helping to ease conflict and averting farmers from taking radical measures against the feline heavyweight. The Human Wildlife Support Unit also rendered assistance to Desert Lion Conservation with collaring and translocations.
The next three months will be as busy for the Human Wildlife Support team and partners; planning to expand the Lion Ranger programme to every affected conservancy in Kunene as well as Erongo Region, establishing fixed patrol routes in the hotspot areas, and advancing their data collection and communication efforts. Despite the unit’s crucial work in the region, a few challenges continue to persist, namely the lack of funds for the Lion Ranger programme, a drastic rise of retaliatory acts by farmers, reluctance of conservancies to engage in the programme, and slow implementation of mitigation measures due to financial constraints and increased conflict.
A few critical recommendations were received from the Kunene stakeholders signifying that a fully functional on-foot Lion Rangers remains a key priority for conservancies to raise awareness and educate farmers on how to handle conflict situations better, make use of more efficient collars, and possibly having all stakeholders (i.e. conservancies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, competent authorities, the tourism sector and the general public) investing in human-conflict management.