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Communal Carnivore Conservation Program

HUMAN WILDLIFE CONFLICT MITIGATION & COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The mitigation of Human Wildlife Conflict has the strategic aim to ENABLE farmers to flourish in this difficult landscape, and to ENABLE Lions to thrive.

In other words, their harmonious co-existence, through tolerance of each other, is the goal.

This can only be achieved if the farmers are uplifted out of poverty. Nature conservation initiatives must be as much about people, as they are about conservation of carnivores, and AfriCat recognizes this in everything they do and project they enact.

Their lives are burdened heavily by the harsh climate and extreme rural settings, living in a circle of poverty, whereby lacking significant monetary income, livestock, in numbers and quality, have come to represent pride, strength and standing amongst one another.

Large carnivores have unknowingly crossed a line, threatened the pride of farming communities and become the focal point of blame and immediate retribution.

Therefore, AfriCat has had to adopt a multi-pronged approach to address the multitude of issues faced by the communities in north-west Namibia and aim to reduce human wildlife conflict through community investment and support, education and raising awareness and tolerance of wildlife and the benefits they can bring to the community.

Offering Support to Communal Conservancy Communities in these areas, AfriCat intervenes on a number of levels and in a number of practical ways. These include:

  • The Livestock Protection Programme (LLP).
  • The Hobatere Southern Boundary Fence Project
  • The Early Warning System
  • Predator proof livestock Kraals, Lion Lights and Lion Guard Night Patrols
  • Community Support activities
  • Assisting Conservancy-run Tourism in Hobatere
  • The Onguta Community & School Development Project

Many of the large carnivore involved with The AfriCat Foundation undergo an annual health check. This is a seminal part of the year for the Foundation and its’ partners, as it allows for far more than simply checking if the animals are healthy.

Invited specialist veterinarians are given the opportunity to conduct research on various aspects of animal health and welfare. This is especially important work in relation to the health of large carnivores held in captivity, or who live in protected – yet enclosed – Nature Reserves, such as Okonjima.

The examinations of the cheetahs at AfriCat provide expert information on the health of AfriCat’s animals, and also allow for the comparison of results with similar studies being conducted on large carnivores in other captive facilities, and also of those who are free-roaming in the wild. 

In captivity, cheetahs are known to suffer from several chronic diseases that do not occur in their wild-living counterparts.

AFRICAT SUPPORTS CONSERVANCY TOURISM CONCESSIONS

Today, Communal Conservancy members in the Kunene Region are beginning to understand that large carnivores can generate a previously non-existent income stream. Wildlife Tourism can provide an alternative – or additional – livelihood for young people, who are becoming more and more educated, and their income can then be fed back into their villages to provide new infrastructure, like schools, to the advantage of the whole community.

Such an example, the Hobatere Lodge of the #Khoa di // Hoas Conservancy, creates job opportunities exclusively for the predominantly local Damara population as Tour-Guides, Game-Guards and Lodge staff.

AfriCat’s Lion Research began within the Hobatere Concession and as the project grew, so did their relationship with the Lodge, who are provided with the telemetry system from the Lion GPS-Satellite Collars, in order to secure them better chances of seeing the majestic cats, and thus a steady stream of guests guaranteed upon the higher odds.

AfriCat asks the Lodge staff to come up with local names for the Lion within their Concession, so that staff can forge a greater connection with the wildlife at their front-door. Sidatia, Naleli and Sores are all Hobatere Lion, and should be seen as no less.

AfriCat looks forward to forging a similar bond with neighbouring Tourism Concessions, that they already work so closely with.

The benefits of non-consumptive tourism go beyond ‘a job’ but extend to have emotional and social impact. Young people, who previously felt despondent at the poverty grind associated with farming, now have a sense of pride in their work, a connection with visitors from all over the world and a sense that their work ‘matters’.

The social consequence of having positive mental health within in a community is well documented all over the world. This is no different.

The more direct the link between presence of wildlife and economic gain, the more efforts will be made to preserve that very wildlife. In the case of tourism in the Kunene Region, the beneficiaries are not only community members but the lion, elephant and rhino as well.

COMMUNITY INVESTMENT & SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

‘Onguta’ stands out as a conservation-focused community in the Ehi-Rovipuka Conservancy, willing to adapt their farming methods and their attitude towards coexistence with Lion and other carnivores. Their traditional leader, Headman Fanuel Ndjiwa, is a conservationist, a visionary and an exemplary leader.

His long-term aspiration is to offer schooling to the 150 children within the nearby communities – for pre-school and grades 1-3 (up to the age of 10 years) – has now been met by AfriCat, in recognition of Onguta’s community support for conservation initiatives. The Onguta School is linked to a government school, Ondau Mobile Primary, based in Opuwo.

The Onguta School Development Project broke ground in early 2018.

The aim is to construct a permanent school structure that will replace the 3 tents with sandy floors, and the metal trunks for storage. Less than ideal for learning and limiting in the number of places it can offer, this ‘mobile school’ has served the dedicated community well. At present, 50-60 school children are provided with education in this mobile facility before they head to the nearby towns (approx. 20km away), once they have completed grade 3.

Their new permanent school will house classrooms, store-rooms, showers and toilets, kitchen and dining area, communal gathering place, teacher accommodation, and eventually, a boarding house.

This school development project and the earlier construction of the playground are community-building projects in themselves.

Community leaders have been behind crucial decisions such as site location, farmers and local businesses have donated materials for the playground, students from the Private School of Swakopmund volunteered to paint and construct structures, and funds have been provided by AfriCat UK and a private donor through the Dutch Charity, Stichting SPOTS.

A local architect has been charged to design the school in the style of her other eco-friendly, community minded projects. Meanwhile, the community members of Onguta will be undertaking the labour necessary to complete the project under the experienced eye of a local contractor. Locally collected stones are sourced and provided by the Onguta community to form the walls of the buildings…. A community project indeed!

By the end of 2018, the Onguta Community school will have 4 fully functioning classrooms. Here, the children will be educated, and natural appreciation of wildlife will be a part of their extra-curricular activities, learning about it in fun and engaging ways. In this way, they will gain greater understanding and love for their environment, and the wildlife therein. The hope is that they will understand what they are taught and experience, they will love what they understand, and they will conserve what they love.

AfriCat’s partnership with the Onguta village, the surrounding community and the headmaster of the Ondau Mobile Primary School, in conservation initiatives, has forged a relationship that has enabled this school project to go ahead.

It is hoped that this school, and the commitment to education, will be seen as a light to other communities…. Which, in turn, will foster awareness, understanding, tolerance and behavior change in the next generation of people who will share the land with wildlife.

The Onguta School Development Project has been taken up by AfriCat, to exemplify the interactive impact of environmental education and community support for conservation initiatives.

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