"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.