In April 2020, Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, the Wilderness Wildlife Trust (WWT), has allocated funds towards the Namibia Desert Lion Conservation Project to ensure the continuity of the crucial work required in the ongoing mitigation of human-lion conflict in the north-west of the country. Channelled through the TOSCO (Tourism Supporting Conservation) Trust, the funds will be used to procure 10 early-warning GPS and satellite collars, as well as two Remote Alert Units.
“As ongoing supporters of Dr Philip Stander’s Namibia Desert Lion Conservation Project, we realise the importance of supporting TOSCO’s work with the conservancies and NGOs in order to generate broad-based local support for the region’s lion conservation, which supports one of the last free-ranging lion populations in Africa. With the current situation we’re facing in ecotourism, and communities needing to safeguard their livestock more than ever, there is an urgent need to continue doing everything we can to mitigate human-lion conflict. Our contribution will go towards helping Dr Stander implement the necessary measures to track lions and warn community members well in advance, to ultimately enable desert lions to survive, while also allowing people to maintain their livelihoods”, says Dr Neil Midlane, WWT Trustee and Wilderness Safaris Group Sustainability Manager.
Active lion collars submit signals and data, making it possible to track movement. These are vital in sending warnings to surrounding communities, giving them enough time to get their livestock into safe enclosures. “With 23 lions now fitted with radio collars in support of the Early Warning System, and four functional Early Warning Logger corrals at Driefontein in the Torra Conservancy, Mbakondja in the Anabeb Conservancy and two in the Ugab River, much has been done in partnership with the community to help reduce livestock loss, and in turn, conserve the Namib lion population. We are proud to support Dr Stander in this crucial conservation work”, adds Dr Conrad Brain, Wilderness Safaris Namibia Environmental Scientist.
Over the past few months, Dr Stander and his team have focused on further building their relationship with farmers and communities. The Rapid Response Team has also worked tirelessly, responding to incidents, call-outs and information sourced from the Early Warning System. This most recent funding will aid the expansion of the project, with plans to train and employ more local community members, who will work closely with the farmers in helping to reduce the human-lion conflict.
Started by Dr Stander in 1998, the Desert Lion Conservation Project is dedicated to the conservation of desert-adapted lion in north-western Namibia. Its focus is to collect important base-line ecological data on the lion population and to study their behaviour, biology and adaptation to survive in this harsh environment.
The lions eke out an existence in the northern Namib Desert, and range over very wide areas in their quest for food and unoccupied territories. This can bring them into conflict with pastoralists who themselves subsist on the finest of margins. The predation of just a few heads of livestock can be disastrous for a farmer situated in these fringe areas, while equally catastrophic is the loss of lions which are subsequently poisoned or shot.
Through his dedicated conservation and research work, Dr Stander has raised awareness of human-wildlife issues, encouraging dialogues aimed at finding solutions. The Desert Lion Conservation Project monitors the frequency of human-lion conflict and works closely with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and the communities to develop management plans in order to prevent further killings.
Dr Stander recognises that sustainable tourism is key to the conservation of lions and other wildlife species. He works closely with the tourism industry, and Wilderness Safaris and the WWT are proud to have supported his research for some two decades. Guests visiting Wilderness Safaris’ Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp are able to get an in-depth overview of his work whilst visiting the camp, as well as updates on other research being conducted on the area’s brown hyaena population and the various other arid-adapted species found in the region.
“By working together and supporting Dr Stander’s work, we hope to promote the tourism value of desert-adapted lions in Namibia, while managing and hopefully diminishing incidences of human-wildlife conflict”, Neil concludes.