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AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project

killi 2013shenzi 2012

Hobatere Lion Research Proposal

Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, AfriCat Foundation.

 

Title
Conduct a study of the Lion (Panthera leo) population within the Hobatere Concession Area and movements between the Hobatere Concession Area, western Etosha National Park and adjacent communal farmland.

hobatere map

Lioness at Hobatere Campsite Waterhole 27.10.2012:

lioness at waterholelioness at waterhole

Introduction and Motivation
The Carnivore Atlas (Stander 2004) estimates a Namibian population of 562-894 lions in three density distribution categories: low, medium and high. (see map below). The Kunene and Etosha sub-populations are isolated from the Caprivi/Khaudom sub-population. The Hobatere Concession Area (hereafter referred to as Hobatere) lies adjacent to western Etosha, with the Hobatere lion population falling within the Etosha sub-population and in the medium to high density category.

namibia lion project map

(Stander: Desert Lion Project 2006)

Namibia’s free-ranging lion population contributes sustainably to the National Income through tourism, however, the local communities and pastoralists that bear the costs of living with lions, seldom share the benefits (Stander 2005). Lion (Panthera leo) move in and out of Hobatere on a regular basis, along the southern, western and northern boundaries as well as between western Etosha National Park and Hobatere. Communal livestock farmers of the #Khoadi //Hoas and Ehirovipuka Conservancies are affected by this farmer-predator conflict, regularly reporting lion movement onto farmland especially where the boundary fence is porous. Lion sightings, tracks as well as livestock killed by lions, are common on these border farms. The frequency of lions crossing the Hobatere boundary and the establishment of independent populations outside of the park, are not known. The extent of livestock loss and resultant lion mortality on adjacent farmland cannot yet be properly assessed.

2009 saw the implementation of the National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management, whereby a balance should be established between conservation priorities and the needs of people living with wildlife. This Policy creates mechanisms for rural communities to manage and benefit from wildlife and other natural resources. The strategies of the policy include:

  1. Research and Monitoring: "To carry out research on the social carrying capacity for certain species that can cause problems, which is determined by the conflicts they cause and the degree of tolerance shown by local residents." "In order to manage HWC (the farmer-lion conflict) effectively and efficiently, it is crucial to have adequate data that is available in a usable form for key decision-makers."
  2. Building Self-Reliance: "To build the capacity for all stakeholders to develop HWC management and mitigation plans and to implement appropriate mitigation methods."
  3. Protected Areas: "To reduce the impact on neighbours of wildlife that leaves protected areas and cause problems."

Furthermore the draft Lion Conservation Management Plan has an objective to "initiate targeted research on lion ecology, biology and management and mitigation of conflict".

Communal Conservancies have added substantially to the network of conservation areas, but, as these areas are not fully protected in the same manner as national parks are, it cannot be assumed that the natural resources are being sustained. The best indication of the impact of conservancies comes from recovery and increase of wildlife populations. Additionally, the status of large predators can be a useful indicator of the health of underlying wildlife populations.

Driven by increased food supply, the spatial expansion of lion in the conservancies of the north-western Kunene Region has increased. While numbers of certain large carnivores have remained stable or increased, numbers of lions have steadily declined. The disproportional control of lion may be due to less tolerance of lion driven by fear rather than the actual negative impacts caused by lions. This is suggested by the response of communities to Human-Wildlife Conflict incidents where frequency of 'problem lions' being removed is completely out of proportion to the damage caused by lions; a negative consequence is that of all the predators, lion are probably the most valuable for trophy hunting and tourism. (Namibia’s Communal Conservancies 2007 – Review of Progress)

 

The ½ degree block representing the section of the ENP border adjacent to Hobatere saw a total of 72 lions destroyed between 1982-2005, with an average of 3 per year. This was the third highest out of 14 blocks surrounding the Etosha National Park – hereafter ENP (Stander: Situation Analysis of HWC in Namibia – 2005). However, reports by conservancy game guards and AfriCat CCCP units indicate that this may be a very conservative number for the amount of lions killed on farmland adjacent to ENP.

An evaluation of previous research (Junker & Stander 2001) indicates that the status and stability of the Etosha lion population can be measured from a sample of four key prides. By monitoring size, age/sex structure, recruitment and adult mortality rates of the four key prides, a sufficiently robust sample can be obtained of trends in the population. One of the key prides is the one in western Etosha: the Renostervlei / Dolomietpunt pride (Stander: Desert Lion Conservation 2006).

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is currently undertaking on-going monitoring studies of lions within the Etosha NP. The North-west (desert) lion population of Kunene Region is likewise being intensively monitored and although this population is continuous with the Etosha population, the understanding of the populations as well as the risks and conservation status differ. Population density and activity patterns in Hobatere were established by Dr P. Stander pre-2007. A number of individuals were collared but little information is available on post-2007 density and movement. The Hobatere Concession Area, which forms the corridor between the northwest and ENP, has been devoid of monitoring or research, in particular since the departure of the Hobatere tourism concessionaires on 01 May 2011.

 

This project aims to re-establish accurate current data on the demography of lions within Hobatere and the surrounding areas. It will provide data on the movement of lions into and out of Hobatere, as well as attempting to provide some of the driving forces which stimulate lions to move. The project aims to quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere.

Mitigation measures will be assayed and the effectiveness of each measure will be assessed. The resultant information will assist in the making of informed decisions as to how best to alleviate conflict and minimise livestock losses, while at the same time maximising conservation goals for the lion.

This project compliments the work being carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism within Etosha National Park and in the greater Kunene area. It fulfils a number of strategies laid out by the National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict as well as the draft Lion Conservation Management Plan.

 

Study Area

hobatere map

hobatere terrain

Hobatere Terrain

 

  1. The 34 000 hectare Hobatere, located along the western boundary of Etosha National Park stretching from the Kaross Block in the south to
  2. Communal farmland of the #Khoa di //Hoas and Ehirovipuka Conservancies, along the southern, western and northern boundaries of the Hobatere Park, and
  3. Hobatere’s eastern boundary with Etosha National Park

Objectives

  1. To understand the population dynamics of the lions utilizing the Hobatere Concession Area, and how one or more of the prides found within Hobatere relate to the greater Kunene population and/or the western part of Etosha National Park
  2. To understand the dispersal and or migration/immigration patterns of lions with Hobatere and the surrounding areas
  3. To understand the role of:
    1.  - water and prey availability within Hobatere and the surrounding areas
    2.  - fencing surrounding Hobatere and Etosha National Park
    3.  - Human pressure from outside of Hobatere
    4.  - Hunting within the surrounding areas and how these factors effect the movement of "Hobatere" lions and the associated human-lion conflict within the area
  4. To test the effectiveness of human-lion conflict mitigation measures, eg. Kraals, Herding, Geo-fencing/early warning systems and translocations.

Key Questions / Hypotheses to be tested

 

Methodology

africat north 400px

AfriCat will be responsible for running the project through the Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP), established in 2011.

The lion population size will be determined through the recognition of groups and individuals. The entire study area will be stratified and each strata will be covered systematically to capture and mark individuals by means of radio collars. Animals will be located by tracking their spoor, using sound play-backs to attract them to bait and responding to reports of HWC on the borders of Hobatere.

Attempts will be made to mark and individually recognise 75% of the population and population estimates will be calculated using mark-recapture models within each strata.

Individuals will be marked using GPS Satellite collars. Aerial or GPS locations will be followed by ground observations to record group composition in relation to individuals and age/sex structure and the ratio of marked to unmarked individuals.

The movements of lions will be related to habitat, prey distribution, intra-specific social interactions and other land tenure variables.

lioness collartammy etosha warden

Male tenure will be observed. In particular, the nomadic segment of the population will be monitored, especially sub-adults that leave the natal pride and non-tenure males, with special attention to movements, social interactions and mortality.

Additionally any lion reported to be in a conflict situation on the farmlands and/or conservancies bordering Hobatere will be collared with a GPS collar and returned to Hobatere. Their subsequent movement and conflict behavior will be monitored.

A veterinarian registered with the Veterinary Council of Namibia will be responsible for the immobilization and collaring of lion using standard procedures.

Blood samples will be taken and submitted to an appropriate laboratory for routine serology and biochemistry.

Consideration will be given to holes in the fences, which may be repaired in an attempt to prevent further cross-border movement. If an individual or group of lions frequently move back and forth onto farmland, and are deemed to be habitual stock raiders and therefore "problem" animals, the option of destroying/hunting such an animal will be considered.

AfriCat has developed an innovative Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP) whereby the communal livestock farmers are encouraged to adopt improved livestock protection methods, effectively reducing livestock losses.Data received from the GPS Satellite Collars may be used as an early-warning system to further minimize losses.

 

Assistance from MET

The Project will at all times maintain close communication with the management of Etosha National Park and Dr. Flip Stander in Kunene. If an individual or group of lions which have been collared within Hobatere or the surrounding areas moves into Etosha National Park it may be necessary to enter the park to continue monitoring its movements. In this case a request will be made to Park Management.

Biological specimens to be collected and place of storage

Routine samples will be collected from each lion darted. These will include serum, whole blood and tail hairs. Samples will be stored at the Etosha Ecological Institue.

Blood samples will be forwarded to an appropriate laboratory for routine serology and biochemistry.

In addition samples can be made available by EEI for any further research.

 

Outcomes

  1. Accurate current information on the demography of lion within and around Hobatere
  2. Accurate information on some of the driving forces which cause lion to move into and out of Hobatere.
  3. An accurate assessment of the current levels of Human lion-conflict in the area, as well as an assessment of the impact this conflict has on local communities.
  4. A measure of effectiveness of a variety of mitigation measures, and consequent information providing for best practice mitigation actions in a given situation.
  5. A sero-survey of possible viruses and bacteria circulating in lions within the study area.

 

Project Evaluation

The project will be evaluated on the following areas of success or failure.

  1. The understanding of the ecology of the lions within Hobatere i.e. numbers, movements, etc.
  2. The identification of potential threats to the population.
  3. Establishing cost-effective monitoring programmes.
  4. Devising HWC mitigation strategies for lions.
  5. The reduction in the number of lions killed.
  6. The increase in tolerance towards predators in the area.

 

References

  1. Junker, J & Stander, P: 2001
  2. Namibia’s Communal Conservancies 2007 – Review of Progress
  3. National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management – 2009
  4. Stander, P: Situation Analysis of HWC in Namibia – 2005
  5. Stander, P: Desert Lion Project - 2006

 

Budget

AfriCat Hobatere Lion Project 2013 - 2015 Phase 1 Unit Unit N$ Phase 1
(2013-2015)
Year 1 - 2013 Year 2-2014 Year 3-2015   Notes
Telecommunications - phone and internet 36 500 18000 6000 6000 6000    
Postage and Delivery 36 100 3600 1200 1200 1200   Hard copies, data and reports.
Stationary supplies 36 150 5400 1800 1800 1800   Paper, ink cartridges, notebooks, pens etc.
IT Equipment        
Laptop 1 8000 8000 8000 0 0   Including software.
Printer 1 2500 2500 2500 0 0   Multifunction and cartridges.
Backup hard drives 2 1500 3000 3000 0 0   2 x 1TB
         
Research Vehicle 1   400000 400000       4x4 modified.
Fuel 24   215000   107500 107500   640.00 litres / month.
Tyres 24 3000 72000   36000 36000   Tubeless tyres x 2 sets per year.
Maintenance / Repair kits 3 10000 30000 10000 10000 10000   Gen. Main / repairs.
Service 10 16000 160000 53000 53000 53000   Av. 3 services per year.
Vehicle Licence 3 1000 3000 1000 1000 1000    
Vehicle Insurance 3 16800 50400 16800 16800 16800    
Trail Cameras 10 8700 87000 87000 0 0   Including cameras, security boxes, memory cards, recharg. Batteries + charger.
Telecomunications system linking study area with AfriCat base 1 90000 90000         Includes - Main Compound: Infrastructure and recording management. Relay station.
GPS Satellite Collars 10 25000 25000 25000        
VHF Telemetry Set 1 8500 8500 0 8500      
Binoculars 4 2000 8000 4000 4000 0    
Digital SLR Camera + Lenses 1   80000 80000 0 0    
GPS 4 2000 8000 2000 6000 0   Including car adaptor and software.
Rechargeable batteries 180 30 5400 5400 0 0   32 units, 2 sets of 4 per camera - camera traps and other field equipment.
Camping gear 1   15000 15000 0 0   Tent, sleeping roll, cooker, lamp, grills, potjies, fridge (adaptor and plug incl.), folding chair and table, stove etc.
First Aid Kit 1   1000 1000 0 0    
Veterinary supplies 3 10000 30000 10000 10000 10000   Darts, gas for dart gun etc.
Aerial patrol               Anti-poaching / illegal trade.
Assistants wages / food 36 5000 180000 6000 60000 60000    
Subtotal     1733800 963700 321800 303300    
                 
Total     1733800 963700 321800 303300    

Radio Collar Costs:
Total cost per GPS Collar + Service Fee, landed in Namibia: N$ 25 000.00

For more information about GPS collars see: Radio Collars for Lions

Updates:
Reporting October 2013 - February 2014

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