Africat.org

Switch to desktop

In honour of World Lion Day 10 August 2014

lions heads togethermale female lion

An Overview of the AFRICAT Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP)

Last year, we posed the question: "Does the Namibian lion stand a chance?" This year, I’d like to share with you the AfriCat programmes committed to ensuring that free-ranging lions survive alongside future generations of conservation-minded Namibians.

Since its inception in the early 90’s, AfriCat’s mission has been to find workable solutions to the ever-present farmer-predator conflict on both free-hold and communal farmland. AfriCat North, our field-base situated along the south-western Etosha National Park boundary, is especially familiar with high livestock losses to lions leaving the confines of the Park and the unabated, retaliatory persecution of these and other carnivores. Lion range extends west, southwest and northwest of Etosha towards the Skeleton Coast with small prides and individuals resident in a number of the communal conservancies of the Kunene Region; here, livestock farmers share habitat with these lions as well as other conflict species such as hyaenas, leopards, cheetahs as well as elephants.

 

Despite the willingness to 'live with wildlife', communal farmers struggle to survive in this harsh environment and, despite the ever-present threat to their livestock be it predators or theft, few have adopted effective livestock management, leaving their animals to graze unattended during the day and roam free at night – an invitation to predators to grab an 'easy meal'.
The resultant loss of livelihood fuels intolerance and large numbers of lions are trapped, poisoned and shot in a futile attempt to protect their stock.

The AfriCat Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP) strives to provide these farmers with the tools which will empower them to make a living without endangering the carnivore (lion) population; for the youth, 'Conservation Through Education' is the key to changing mindset, leading to greater understanding and appreciation for Namibia’s wildlife. Ultimately, it’s their heritage and responsibility to protect and conserve.

 

A number of AfriCat’s Community Programmes have been running since 2004 and it has taken this time to gain the confidence and support from the Conservancy Authorities and farmers alike, needless to say that the intermittent droughts throw the best plans awry. Vast areas in the Kunene Region received below-average rainfall 2013/2014 and are still barren and strewn with livestock carcasses.

However, despite our setbacks, it is clear that through AfriCat’s perseverance and firm commitment from a number of the Traditional Leaders (Chiefs & Councillors), communal conservancy committees and members (the farmers), these human-wildlife mitigation options are being implemented and some measure of success is evident. It will take many more hours of meetings 'under Tree', in situ Rangeland & Livestock Management programmes and most importantly, Conservation Education for young and old, before any medium to long-term success can be established; in conjunction with these initiatives, there is dire need for tourism-related activities which 'add value' to wildlife, encouraging these communities to protect this asset.

 

Supported by the following programmes, Communal farmers now have workable solutions to the farmer-predator conflict; what remains is the willingness to change and, in most cases, to once again embrace traditional methods of protection.

 

The AfriCat Lion Guards – 'Keepers of the Wilderness' - play a vital role in protecting lions and mitigating farmer-lion conflict on communal farmland: essentially, they encourage and guide farmers to adopt the AfriCat Livestock Protection programme, monitor & report on lion whereabouts & report incidents, patrol Park fences together with the Ministries of Environment & Tourism (MET) & Veterinary Services, monitor & report poaching and other illegal activities, identify priority villages for kraal-building and carry the message of Conservation from the highest authorities to the farmer. The Lion Guards, elected by their communities, are assigned to various areas. 'German' Muzuma, a Chief-in-waiting, is based at Otjokovare, the 'captial' of the Ehirovipuka Conservancy and co-ordinates the Lion Guard activities; Titus Turitjo, is based along Etosha’s western boundary, covering an area of approx. 60 km2 on horse-back; Jackson Kavetu hails from the Arisona farming community along the south-western border of the Hobatere Concession Area and Uezekandavii Nguezeeta (Kandavii) from the Onguta area, along its western border.

namibias lion guardians

left to right: AfriCat Lion Guards German, Titus, Jackson & Kandavii.

 

The AfriCat Livestock Protection Programme (LPP): AfriCat offers various mitigation options including the use of stationary & mobile nocturnal kraals, re-instating herdsmen, collaborative Park fence repair (with MET & Veterinary Department staff) and improved livestock management. Once the Lion Guards have identified a 'hot-spot' - an area of regular lion movement coupled with a community suffering livestock mortalities to large carnivores, especially lion - whether it be along Park borders or further afield, they set up camp in order to determine the extent of the conflict and the community’s willingness to adapt their livestock management to improve protection. Communal farming communities comprise on average 15 - 25 households {at approx.15-20 persons per household}, owning, on average, 500 - 1 500 cattle, large herds of goats as well as horses and donkeys, where discussions concerning such programmes may cover a few weeks; once consensus is reached, the AfriCat Project Coordinator meets with the local Traditional Leaders. Before a nocturnal kraal is allocated by AfriCat, unanimity must be gained with regards to participation, construction site and kraal size (ranging from 40m2x70m2 – 80m2x100m2), maintenance and livestock management; most importantly, AfriCat requires commitment from the Chief/Headman and confirmation of his ability to convince the farmers and their herdsmen to make use of the safe-haven and to refrain from persecuting large carnivores, specifically the use of leg-hold traps and poison.

The AfriCat CCCP monitors such kraals on a regular basis and is on stand-by to support these communities should further lion-related conflict arise.

meeting under treemeeting under tree

Meetings 'Under Tree' with Traditional Leaders & communal farmers introducing AfriCat’s Livestock Protection Programme.

 

To date, AfriCat has built 14 nocturnal kraals in the Ehirovipuka & !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancies (Kunene Region), with an estimated 15 – 20 more kraals planned for threatened communities stretching from Palmfontein, along the Hobatere north-western and northern boundary as well as Etosha’s western border. AfriCat has been approached by a number of Traditional Leaders to establish this workable programme in other communal conservancies.

completed livestock protection kraalcompleted livestock protection kraal

AfriCat Livestock Protection Programme Nocturnal Kraals

 

The AfriCat Lion Research Project, supported by the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) and the Ehirovipuka & !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancies, AfriCat commenced with this project in April 2013; the aim, over a period of 3-5 years, is to establish lion numbers, dynamics and movement patterns within the Hobatere Concession Area of 34 000 ha, as well as to develop and test farmer-lion conflict mitigation methods along the western and northern borders with communal farmland.

Into its second year, the data collected from approx. 35 000 trail camera photographs, 964 videos and a few sightings, has established the numbers of resident lions within this area at 3 adult females, 9 cubs and 2 resident males.

 

One of the lions is fitted with a GPS-Satellite Collar; these downloads enable us to monitor the lion’s movements at 2-hourly intervals, giving us up to 12 locations for the previous 24 hours. The information retrieved includes elevation, temperature and time and allows us to zoom in on daily movements, kill-sites and favoured spots such as trees, riverbeds or waterholes, hills & valleys.

It is this location-plotting that helps us predict when lions are straying too close to the boundary fence and neighbouring farmland; a text message is sent to the Lion Guard responsible for that specific area, which is sent on to the farmers, providing an early-warning system, alerting them to move their livestock to alternative grazing areas and to protect their animals by making use of the nocturnal kraals provided by AfriCat.

afc cccp lion rrlioness cub gps collar

AfriCat is often called out on nocturnal patrols when lions venture too close to villages and regular fence patrols are undertaken along the Etosha and Hobatere Park boundary fences where holes and breakages are repaired in collaboration with the Conservancy, MET & Veterinary Service fence-repair teams.

 

The AfriCat 'Conservation Through Education' Programme encourages the youth and farming communities of the Kunene, as well as other Regions, to participate in our environmental education programmes, ultimately establishing a deep-seated awareness of environmental issues, attitude change and commitment to the conservation of wildlife. Based at AfriCat North’s wilderness camp, students from the local schools, community members as well as farmers are also able to experience firsthand, the essence of wildlife conservation inside of the Etosha National Park. Activities such as viewing of wildlife in its natural habitat, interaction with Park Wardens and tourists alike, are of lasting educational value; in this way, the surrounding communities will be convinced of the long-term value of the conservation and protection of wildlife within the Etosha National Park as well as in the adjacent conservancies.

lion tracks

Introducing lion track identification.

vhf telemetry

Tracking lions using VHF Telemetry.

encouraging students to be conservationists

Etosha Warden encouraging students
to become conservationists.

 

"Ultimately Conservation is about people. If you don’t have sustainable development around wildlife parks – then the people will have no interest in them and the parks will not survive” Nelson Mandela

World Lion Day will be celebrated on 10 August in a number of Namibian schools as well as with the AfriCat Teams in the UK, Germany, Holland, USA and elsewhere.
TAMMY HOTH – Director AfriCat Foundation and the Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP).

 

Copyright AfriCat All rights reserved Copying of images is prohibited

Top Desktop version