Kunene Conservation Research

Translocations in the Hoanib

MARCH 17, 2019

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Lioness and donkey. Photos: A. Wattamaniuk

This past week the Lion Rangers, partnering with MET, TOSCO, and Desert Lion Conservation, worked around the clock to prevent human-lion conflict near the Hoanib River in Sesfontein Conservancy. Over more than 72 hours the team tracked a pair of lionesses and monitored them until a translocation could be safely and successfully executed. It was a hard job; everyone pitched-in.

The ongoing drought in northwest Namibia is forcing game and livestock into unusual places. Sesfontein farmers have employed the Hoanib River as an emergency grazing area since long-before the implementation of the conservancy system. This past week an experienced livestock owner brought his stock and family from the nearby hills to the Hoanib, because there was no grazing available at his normal cattle post areas.

Around the same time, two well-known lionesses moved further up the river than had been previously recorded. Their collar locations, tracked as part of the Early-Warning System, gave the Lion Rangers and Rapid Response Teams ample warning of the lionesses’ movements. Quickly a team was deployed to the area to inform the livestock-owners about the potential danger. The farmers’ agreed to alter their livestock movements to avoid the lions while the teams developed a plan for removing the lions from the area.

An intensive few days of monitoring both stock and lions ensued. Though the two lionesses killed two donkeys overnight, these donkeys did not belong to local stock owners, were unkraaled, and appear to have gone feral. The side-effect of the two donkeys being killed was that the lionesses settled down at the carcass – keeping them away from the farmers’ livestock.

When all the stakeholders had been engaged, and with MET oversite, the lions were darted and translocated by a team led by Dr. Philip Stander out to the Skeleton Coast National Park and away from immediate human-lion conflict possibilities. Throughout the process MET staff and local farmers were integral to operation’s successful completion – a true example of community-based natural resource management. Dr. Stander was able to come in and rely upon the information provided by the local players to implement a safe darting and translocation for all involved. Special thanks to the local farmers for their patience and willingness to work with the Lion Rangers and MET.