"Keepers of the Wilderness..."
are highly respected community members, dedicated to protecting the lion as well as mitigating lion-farmer conflict on farmland in Namibia’s north-west (Kunene Region).
The Lion Guards all come from a farming background, some of them once formed part of the community game-guard programme. Farmers in their own right, they understand the harsh living conditions and they know, from personal experience, the difficulties that the farming communities face in order to protect their livestock from lion and other predators.
Their empathy and respect for the lion and their acceptance & understanding of lion behaviour, has made them perfect ‘lion’ ambassadors, able to guide, assist and advise communities on how to manage and protect their stock from these large carnivores. The Lion Guards are in a position to encourage greater tolerance of wildlife, helping their counterparts with the implementation of Conservation Education and Conservation Agriculture initiatives. The Lion Guards and their volunteers are nominated by their respective communities, playing a supportive role apart from their capacity as dedicated Namibian Lion Trust employees.
The Lion Guards assist in locating within the study area, the lion to be fitted with GPS-Satellite tracking collars, that provide invaluable data at 2-hourly intervals (the intervals may be set according to need). They monitor the whereabouts of both collared and uncollared lion in order to establish movement patterns and together with the data retrieved from the widely dispersed trail cameras within their area and the lion-sightings by the community members, the Lion Guards are able to forewarn farmers in ‘hot-spot’ conflict zones.
When the Early-Warning System (EWS) detects lion movement or when an incident is reported, the Lion Guards (who actually form the Rapid Response Unit), move out to support the affected farmer or community as well as to protect the lion. Their night- and / or day-time patrols contribute to the protection of both the livestock and the villagers; the collection & evaluation of valuable information on lion whereabouts, livestock management as well as lion and livestock mortalities, provides for reliable reporting and assessment.
The Lion Guards contribute towards greater understanding and acceptance of wildlife. This takes time and patience, with many hours spent ‘under-tree’, meeting with farmers and traditional leaders to discuss workable solutions. By providing guidance and encouragement, they help the farming community to adopt our Livestock Protection Programme, which includes employing herdsmen and protecting their livestock at night.
Last but not least, Lion Guards identify communities in need of our support and livestock protection ‘bomas’. Together with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) staff, they patrol & repair Protected Area fence-breaks, also reporting on poaching and other illegal activities.
Lion Guards & GPS-Satellite collars keep Lions Alive and farmers, with their livestock, Safe…
The long hours spent in the field and their dedicated mitigation of the farmer-predator conflict, is slowly but surely showing results: for those farmers who have adopted the Livestock Protection Programme, reports show a notable reduction in livestock loss due to lion & spotted hyaena predation and a drop in the number of lions killed.
Farmers who leave their stock in the field at night and who allow their animals to graze inside of Wildlife Protected Areas, continue to suffer losses.
The work of a Lion Guard is never done: a change of heart & mind-set, attitudes and behavior, especially ‘modernising’ age-old farming practices, takes time, determination and steadfastness… but will bring us all one step closer to co-existence between man and lion.
Our Lion Guards
Uezekandavi Nguezeeta, fondly known as Kandavii, joined the Namibian Lion Trust as a Lion Guard in 2015. He patrols an area of approx. 80 km2, adjacent to the Hobatere, an extension to the west of the Etosha National Park. Mostly on foot, Kandavii covers vast areas of inhospitable terrain, mitigating conflict between livestock farmers, lion, and other large carnivores. His determination to protect Conservancy wildlife, especially the Hobatere lions when they follow the Hartmann’s Zebra herds out of the safety of the Park onto neighbouring farmland, is commendable. Kandavii has watched the Hobatere lioness named Ai, raise two sets of cubs; she recently shifted her home range onto communal farmland adjacent to this Protected Area, making his commitment to protecting her & her offspring from farmer retaliation, all the more challenging.
“I love to see the lion cubs in our Conservancy, as this shows me that our lions are healthy” – NLT senior Lion Guard, Jackson Kavetu. Jackson became a Conservancy Game Guard when he was a young man and has been a dedicated lion conservationist ever since. He joined the Namibian Lion Trust in 2012. As a First Responder when calls for support come in from the field, his passion for wildlife protection motivates him to do all he can, to minimize conflict between farmers and carnivores. Married, with three school-going children, Jackson farms goats on communal land close to Etosha’s border. His successful livestock protection methods are testimony to the efficacy of the Namibian Lion Trust’s practical, workable systems.
Katirire (Titus) Turitjo farms on communal land close to the Etosha National Park western border, where he and his family have lost livestock to predators that leave the confines of the Park. “I feel good about my job as a Lion Guard because it gives me more knowledge on how to farm, protect my livestock and how to educate my Community”. Titus patrols his vast area on horseback, often spending nights out in the field, where lion and spotted hyaena, especially, roam opportunistically in search of easy prey.
Naphtalie Awarab: As a child, Naphtalie remembers the challenges of farming livestock in areas where wildlife such as lion and elephant roam. His family’s cattle, goats & donkeys fell prey to predators that leave the Etosha National Park. Naphtalie’s knowledge of the natural world gained as a young herdsman, is an asset to the Namibian Lion Trust as is his passion for mechanics and brickwork. He has three children, the youngest is Ivan, who is in grade 5 and hopes to become a pilot once he completes his schooling.
Dorien Kharuxas: ‘I graduated from high school in December 2018, two years later I was employed by the Namibian Lion Trust as Office Administrator. My work has become my passion as I now know how important it is to monitor lion movement and to support our Lion Guards in the field, with information and the daily programme. Always ways trying to prevent conflict by warning farmers to protect their livestock, is my most valuable role. As a young mother of our beautiful daughter, Zinorida, I am lucky to have a loving family where my mother takes care of her and my brother’s daughter, Rasia. I care about their future and would like to share what I have learned with my community so that we may learn to live closer to nature’.
Renoveni Tjauira joined our team in 2019 and is proud of his role as Lion Guard in the Omatendeka Conservancy, one of the most pro-active in lion conservation. Despite high livestock losses to predation, his Conservancy believes in the protection of all wildlife, also conflict species such as elephant and predators. His dedication to protecting lions from persecution became clear when he helped weigh a male lion during a collaring exercise. “Touching that sleeping lion changed the way I see them today”. Renoveni never misses an opportunity to patrol his area, diligently completing his monitoring and data collection forms. Renoveni is well-liked by his peers and has shown great leadership potential during Lion Guard Training Courses.
Hoveka Undari: “Every day I speak to my family to conserve the Lion because it is very important for our future generations to see and know about the Lion, so that they may not just hear or read about them one day in old books, like we do about Dinosaurs. I am a family-man, married to Jaturapi for 10 years and we have 5 children. The Lion is very important in our area, the Omatendeka Conservancy. I am a committee member and am proud to be able to serve my community in important conservation decisions”.
Lazarus Hoxobeb is a member of the #Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy and farms on communal land with his wife, Odilie, along the southern boundary of the Hobatere Concession, a wildlife protected area managed as part of the Etosha National Park. He joined the Namibian Lion Trust in December 2019, but also represents the /Gaio Daman Traditional Authority at Conservancy level. “One of my dreams was to work with lions, and now I actively try to prevent Human-Wildlife Conflict and to protect these vulnerable Big Cats”.
Barman Guim’s empathy for the elusive Black Rhino that survives in the inhospitable, semi-arid Kunene, is shared with the few lions that are also found in this wilderness. The Grootberg Plateau lies at approx. 1600 m, the edges eroded into rivers over millions of years, are the lifeblood for wildlife, providing food for lions and other predators. This treacherous yet unique landscape is Barman’s ‘backyard’, his instinctive knowledge invaluable when monitoring lions. Barman & his wife Marianna, farm on communal land in the Grootberg area, their children almost done with school take every opportunity, gaining experience from their father, to join on patrols.
Kanisius Kenahama: “My work with the Namibian Lion Trust allows me to Live my passion for nature and to STOP the killing of lions”. Kanu, as we all know him, is a registered Tour Guide, also an accredited Hunting Guide, with 15 years’ experience as a tracker. His knowledge of animal behaviour and his ability to identify the known lions is crucial to locating them when on field trips with his team. His loyalty to the Trust is sincerely appreciated. During the Lion Ranger Training, Kanu shows compassion for the farmers’ plight but is steadfast in his belief that the lion should enjoy greater protection from retaliation, supporting stricter Law Enforcement. He has two young children, also taking care of his elderly parents.