The African Lion Working Group Conference 10+11.02.2012 – a gathering of conservationists and researchers establish the true status of the African Lion, discuss present projects and the way forward – action plans to ensure the survival of the species Panthera leo.
The first ALWG Conference to be held on Namibian soil took place over two days at Okaukuejo in the Etosha National Park.
Delegates from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, with individuals representing Zimbabwe &, Mozambique as well as larger, global conservation organisations, arrived at River Crossing Lodge on the outskirts of Windhoek, welcomed by Namibia's 'green season' of thunder storms, flowing rivers and fields of yellow flowers.
After their initial shock of finding a rather tropical-looking Namibia in comparison to what all believe to be a desert, our tired guests settled into a most enjoyable 'sundowner' of good wine, followed by Namibian Cuisine and complimented by the exceptionally friendly and enthusiastic River Crossing Team.
As member, the AfriCat Foundation was tasked to organise this Conference and we could not have given the Namibian Lion such representation without the most generous support received from Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), Total, Waltons, River Crossing, Okonjima & Kavita Lion Lodges, Cymot/Campmor Outdoor and Wildphoto Shop, with special thanks to our cousin Roy!
The 2 days of Conference brought to our attention the precarious situation in those African countries where lions still occur, bearing in mind that lion numbers have dropped from approx. 200 000 in the 70's to below 50 000 to date: lion populations in some countries have dropped so low with little hope of redemption UNLESS the respective governments put into place renewed policy & regulation and take the conservation of their lion populations seriously; in others, populations seem stable but increasing threats such as illegal hunting practices, over-utilisation of trophy-size animals, lack of capacity to control and regulate quotas and most frightening of all, the increase in the Lion Bone Trade, Canned Lion Hunting and uncontrolled Captive Breeding.
On a positive note, a number of conservationists reported the increasing success rate of Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation programmes as well as a clear indication by communities of their commitment to conserving their lion populations as well as ideal habitat – often linked to the positive effect of tourism.
Namibia was hailed as one of the 'success stories' on the African Continent, with the ever-developing Communal Conservancies and their contribution to conservation of wildlife, an example worth emulating.
The Farmer-Lion Conflict, however, needs serious attention and NGOs such as AfriCat were commended for their work; HOWEVER, the urgency of increased support for such conservation initiatives is apparent.
Sincere thanks as well to Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism for their encouraging messages of support and long-term commitment to lion conservation.
TAMMY HOTH (Director AfriCat Foundation)