Lion Research

Lion Guards & GPS-Satellite collars keep Lions Alive and
farmers, with their livestock, Safe…

In 2018, the government implemented a Revised Human-Wildlife Conflict Policy, which was based on the initial National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Management from 2009. The aim of the Policy is to establish a balance between Conservation priorities and the needs of the people living with Wildlife. One of the strategies of the Policy includes a Research and Monitoring aspect, to determine which species can cause problems.

“There is a need for more comprehensive data that enables the Government and other stakeholders to understand better the nature and scale of the problems, to develop solutions and monitor the success of the solutions. Data gathering needs to be standardized so that results can be compared from area to area and over time. Data needs to be stored in a central data-base that all stakeholders can have access to. “

To this end, the Hobatere Lion Research
Project was launched in 2013

The aim of this specific project is to study the population dynamics and movements of the African lion (Panthera leo) within the Hobatere Concession Area and western Etosha National Park (both wildlife Protected Areas), on adjacent communal and free-hold farmland, as well as populations further afield.

The research on lion ecology and biology should contribute towards the management and mitigation of conflict. Since 2013, the Project has completed four phases.

Phase 1

2013- June 2014

The emphasis is to

  • re-establish accurate data on the demography of the lion within the Hobatere Concession and surrounding areas, including western Etosha.
  • establish the driving forces which stimulate lions to move.
  • quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere.

Some initial mitigation processes were implimented and the effectiveness thereof was assessed. 

Phase 2

July 2014- June 2015

  • The data collection methods were improved by placing camera-traps close to waterholes and by collaring lion using GPS-Satellite collars.
  • The collars were programmed to upload the location every two hours, which provided more detailed information on the locations and movement patterns of each lion; valuable data was also gathered on the other members of the group.
  • Increased temperatures and a lower rainfall proved to be the main driving force influencing lion movements.
  • Furthermore, it was established that the porous Protected Area fences contributed to increased human-lion conflict.
  • Mitigation measures were analyzed and it became clear that due to ineffective National tele-communications, we often failed to warn farmers in time.

As always, there was a need for better guidance and advice for local farmers and conservancy leaders.

Phase 3

July 2015-June 2016

Reliable data was gathered and their movements mapped; sightings of unknown lions were recorded and a population estimate was done within the Hobatere Concession and immediate surrounds:

  • The study area covered approx. 300 km2, with an estimated 24 lion in the Hobatere area, including the Omatendeka Conservancy and 3 known lions in the Etendeka Concession. 
  • Of those, 10 individuals were marked and collared, while another 17 lions could be positively identified.
  • At that time, 5 adult females, 8 sub-adult females, 4 males and 4 sub-adult males had been identified.
  • In addition, 4 cubs were older than 18 months and another 2 were born in 2016.  

Phase 4

July 2016 – September 2017

With a number of collars providing invaluable data, greater insight is available regarding cross-border lion migration, supporting improved Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation methods.

By this time, eleven lion had been collared, three of which were resident in the Etendeka Concession, west of the Grootberg Mountain range. Hobatere and western Etosha/Kaross Block lions numbered four males, two of which were the territorial, sibling males (Hpl-2 + 6). {‘Hpl’ refers to the identification code for lion marked during this research project: Hobatere panthera leo}

One other young male (Hpl-10), collared inside the Hobatere Concession, migrated eastwards with his brother (uncollared) to avoid conflict with the dominant male, Hpl-2; they settled on a private game reserve along Etosha’s southern boundary. Hpl-9, was collared on free-hold farmland and returned to Etosha three times  from whence he came, each time returning to his home range, Etosha West. After his third relocation, approx. 360 kms eastwards to the Halali area of Etosha, Hpl-9 returned to the west three months later, to settle on a free-hold, game farm. six months later, he was shot as a ‘problem animal’ after perfecting the ambush of his prey, young eland antelope, into the farmer’s game fence. 

The four Hobatere females are all related: Hpl-11, the Matriarch, whom we first identified at the start of the research project in 2012, together with her daughter, Hpl-1 and their four small cubs. Both Hpl-11 and Hpl-1 are dead, the former due to Human-Wildlife Conflict along Hobatere’s southern boundary with communal farmland and Hpl-1 died of her injuries sustained in a territorial fight. Hpl-12, daughter to Hpl-1, is one of three females that dominate the Hobatere North section of the Hobatere Concession.

GPS-Satellite collars are programmed to provide such vital data, enabling us to identify home ranges and create kernel analyses; this information is used by the Nambian Lion Trust to develop the Early-Warning System, ultimately reducing livestock loss and minimizing lion destruction.

 

lioness charging NLT vehicle
lioness protecting her cubs in hobatere concession
lioness protecting her cubs in the hobatere concession northern namibia
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