Pride in lions: pride in reducing human wildlife conflict

Lion cub
Lion cub

Undeniably cute – indisputably dangerous. Namibia’s lion dilemma is felt most keenly in the north-east Zambezi Region, sandwiched between Botswana, Angola and Zambia. As a result of cattle losses several years ago, the Nkasa Rupara pride of lions was reduced from 15 to 3 by culling. But thanks to efforts by the Kwando Carnivore Project to reduce conflict between farmers and lions, not only have stock losses become negligible, but lion prides are recovering. The Nkasa Rupara Pride’s newest member was photographed by lodge owner Simone Micheletti.

Last week the NACSO site reported on the National Conference on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on 2 & 3 March. Lise Hanssen, who leads the Kwando Carnivore Project reported on lion movements between the Mudumu and Nkasa Rupara National Parks in Zambezi Region. The Project has just released its March 2017 Report for the Mudumu South Complex, with lion statistics for the area, and full details of the project’s work with farmers to reduce conflict while safeguarding lions.

The complex is made up of national parks, communal conservancies and community forests and lies at the heart of the Kavango Zambezi Conservation Area, KAZA, and within the Kwando Wildlife Dispersal Area, one of six designated as vital for wildlife connectivity within KAZA.

If KAZA is to succeed in its vision to create a world-class tourism destination based upon conservation, then farmers have to find ways to live with lions. That’s where the Kwando Carnivore Project came in during 2014, with funding from the Big Cat Initiative, Panthera and the Millenium Challenge Account in partnership with NACSO member IRDNC. The project started building lion-proof kraals with the intention of dramatically cutting losses of cattle.

Lise Hanssen’s report to the MET conference on HWC management showed that two desirable outcomes have been met: cattle losses dropped to almost zero, and lion populations increased due to the lack of retaliation killing by farmers. Lions that may have been tempted by cattle left out at night were deterred by the kraals, and moved safely between the parks causing minimal disturbance.

The Project is now providing mobile bomas to protect cattle at night, with the further benefit of fertilizing fields by concentrating cattle in one area for a short period of time.

The scientific, but highly readable report, available here on the NACSO site, has many encouraging statistics. During 2016, three young adult male lions from the Mudumu Pride crossed the Kwando River into Luiana National Park in Angola, and a further three moved into that park from Horseshoe, in Bwabwata National Park, Namibia. This pride has successfully raised a third litter of cubs since 2010, and 14 Horseshoe lions have dispersed throughout the Mudumu area, and within KAZA.

Steve Felton

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