Early Warning & Rapid Response
The Lion Guards are a group of dedicated individuals, elected by their own communities, who help mitigate the lion-human conflict. They identify conflict ‘hot-spots’ in communal Conservancies and support their farmer-counterparts with the erection of ‘bomas’, the installation of LionLights, undertake day/night patrols to protect livestock and settlements as well as encourage greater tolerance of conflict wildlife, such as lion and other carnivores. Furthermore, they share information regarding the whereabouts of all wildlife with the research team, conservancy committees and their communities.
The Lion Guards keep track of the whereabouts of the large carnivores. When a collared lion exits a safe-zone (the collar is programmed according to Geo-fencing zones), an Alert is sent to the Namibian Lion Trust base via the GPS-Satellite collar.
Also, when a lion is located or when tracks are found close to a kraal or a village, then the Lion Guards will communicate the potential threat to the farmers via WhatsApp or SMS. In this way, farmers are given enough time and opportunity to take precautionary measures to safeguard their livestock by bringing them into the protective ‘bomas’ before nightfall and by being more vigilant.
Another advantage of the Lion Guard programme is Rapid Response: once lion movement or an incident is reported, the Lion Guard allocated to the specific zone drives to the area of potential conflict to assist the farmers. If the lion has migrated from a Protected Area such as Etosha National Park, then the Lion Guard will try to encourage it to return to safety. In the case of lion living in the Conservancy, the Lion Guard will remain in the area until the lion has moved on and the conflict has been resolved.
Welcome benefits of the Early-Warning System and the Rapid Response are the increase in trust and communication between the Namibian Lion Trust and the farmers. However, one of the challenges to the Early-Warning System, like much of the Trust’s work, is the limited communication technology in the Kunene Region, where we operate. There is a limit to the scope and impact until communication improves.