Namibian Sun

Second move for Torra lions

The group of lions that caused major damage to livestock at the Torra Conservancy, now have to be moved again because they are not welcome in Erongo.

12 January 2018 | Environment

The environment ministry has responded to concerns by farmers in the Erongo Region following the translocation of four lions from the Kunene Region to a sanctuary near Omaruru.

The ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said following the death of 200 hundred small stock in the Torra Conservancy, Kunene Region in November 2017, it was found that a pride of between 10 and 15 lions was responsible.

“Preliminary investigations confirmed at the time that the first rains that were received in the Kunene Region, resulted in the dispersal of the presence and movements of wild animals in the area making it difficult for lions and other predators to find their natural prey,” Muyunda said in a statement. The ministry made a decision to capture and translocate the pride which was finally confirmed to only be eight animals.

According to Muyunda, the minister had “no other option but to move these lions to areas where they will not cause any conflicts with people. An alternative was to destroy all the eight lions but this is always the last option.”

Three private game farms or groups of game farmers had expressed an interest to keep lions. One, Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary, was found to be ready to accommodate the animals. The sanctuary encompasses 20 member farms and 12 geographically incorporated supportive non-member farm units within and surrounding the Erongo Mountains.

“The ministry was satisfied with their interest as the habitat is good and they have enough prey for lions. The area is big in size comprising an area of approximately 180 000 ha. Consultations including a meeting with the representatives of Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary were conducted with the ministry on the release of the lions,” Muyunda added.

The ministry then set out to capture the pride and five lions out of the eight, of which all were sub-adult, were captured and translocated. One died due to capture stress. The remaining three cats had moved to inaccessible terrain and the operation to capture them was called off. Lions naturally occur in the north-western part of the country were the relocation occurred. The growth of lion population in the north western Namibia has resulted in growth in tourism because nowhere else in the world can free-ranging lions be seen amongst sand dunes or on a beach. Lions should therefore be viewed as a national asset to Namibia. Muyunda said the ministry’s lion conflict reduction management strategies include capture and translocation to other areas where it is deemed that the animal will not cause conflict with people. Reduction management strategies also include trophy hunting of certain individual animals. The Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary has enough prey for lions, according to Muyunda, and food for the lions at the sanctuary is therefore not an issue.

“Although some people, mainly some individual commercial farmers neighbouring the Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary, have complained about the introduction of these lions, there are also other predators in the area such as leopard, hyaena and cheetahs some of which might even be more dangerous to humans than lions based on the rare incidence of leopard attacks on humans compared to the extremely rare incidences of attacks or attempted attacks by lions. Lions have furthermore established themselves in the nearby Ugab River system and are anticipated to gradually extend their range southwards towards the western Omaruru River catchment in suitable habitat. In fact, in 2016 and 2017 reports of lions in the vicinity of Omaruru were received.

“The farmers concerned also (most of them) run tourism businesses in addition to livestock farming. The reasons to call for the removal of the lions may only be known to them.”

To date, the ministry had not received any substantiated reports that any of the translocated lions had left the sanctuary or had been involved in any livestock conflict outside the conservancy.

However, in a bid to reduce public concern, the ministry will capture the lions and translocate them to one of the national parks, an operation set to start immediately.

Muyunda said the ministry extended appreciation to the Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary who had the interest and volunteered to keep these lions on their land, for the conservation of lions in Namibia and benefit of the country from tourism and wildlife management.