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Lion Guards

Established by AfriCat in 2010, the Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP) aims to gain further understanding, and protection, of the lion living in the north-west Kunene Region, adjacent to one of the treasures of Namibia – the Etosha National Park.

In this region, there is significant Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) as people strive to live within wilderness areas and share the sparse environment with indigenous wildlife.

Lion, of course, do not respect boundaries, and will roam back and forth over lands which may or may not be protected. Perceived as a great threat to their livestock – or to human life – the farming community find it challenging to live alongside such large carnivores.

All too often, termed ‘problem’ animals, they are easily killed by poison, snaring, leg-hold traps or the rifle.

In 1996, the Namibian Lion was declared a Protected Species due to declining population rates, loss of ideal habitat, decreasing availability of its prey base, and the increased persecution at the hands of livestock farmers.

Namibia’s lion population was estimated to be fewer than 1000 individuals in 2016 (Panthera, WildAid & WildCru: Beyond Cecil: Africa’s Lion in Crisis, 2016) and these lion are at great risk due to conflict with farmers sharing their environment.

Most of these lion are found in northern Namibia, in the Kunene, Kavango and Zambezi regions. The lion in the Etosha National Park and Kunene region are also believed to be free from Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus, making them a valuable founder population source.

An enhanced livelihood, without the need to destroy the lion, leads to greater tolerance…. And it is with this aim, that the CCCP goes about its work. These programmes strive to prevent negative stereotyping of lion by communal farmers and to limit retaliatory persecution, also fostering good relationships with traditional community leaders.

Great success has been achieved in building these strong and trusting relationships, and as a result a number of Conservancies are becoming more tolerant towards lion…. which has resulted in expanding conservation zones beyond the demarcated Protected Areas (Etosha NP and Hobatere) and towards the Skeleton Coast Park.

Critical to such successes are the group of Lion Guards, “Keepers of the Wilderness” – individuals selected by their own Conservancies to carry the message of Conservation throughout their communities from the highest authority to the farmer.

The Lion Guards are dedicated members of their own communities and are held in much respect. Farmers in their own right, they have a comprehensive understanding of the pressures and challenges that their counterparts face, striving to make a living in the wilderness. They also uniquely understand the importance which traditional farmers place on their livestock.

Seemingly in contradiction to this, they also have great affection for the lion and it is upon this which their own work with CCCP is founded.

Lion Guards play a pivotal, community-based, role in protecting lion and mitigating lion-farmer conflict on communal farmland. They dedicate themselves to providing guidance, assistance and advice to community members regarding livestock management & protection, encouraging greater tolerance of wildlife and the adoption of conservation education initiatives.

The Lion Guards and their volunteers (nominated by their communities) are the essential frontline in CCCP projects, and in particular with the Human-Wildlife Conflict mitigation and community support programme.

They monitor and report on lion whereabouts and incidents, encourage and guide communal farmers in adoption of the Livestock Protection Programme, identify priority villages for kraal-building, patrol and repair fences with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism staff, as well as monitor and report poaching and other illegal activities.

In any suspected lion attack on livestock, the Lion Guards offer community support by responding to the incident, evaluating evidence and patrolling during the night to offer protection for livestock and villagers in the area.

Lion Guards also assist in data collection for AHLRP by helping to collar lion, regularly checking the widely dispersed trail-cameras throughout their territories, keeping records of any lion-sightings by their community members, and day-to-day monitoring of the lion populations involved in the study.

Data collected from the GPS-tracking collars help the Lion Guards to warn farmers in ‘hot-spot’ zones as part of the Early Warning System (EWS). They also carry out night patrols when they know that lion are in their own areas, to help support and protect their own farming community and livestock.

These men endlessly and tirelessly, encourage and support their communities, playing a vital role in protecting lions and mitigating lion-farmer conflict on communal farmland.

Often slow and challenging work, their patience, hard work and dedication is being rewarded as there has been a reduction in livestock losses due to lion predation, and also in the retroactive persecution of lion after livestock loss in the areas that they cover.

Collaborative community involvement, support and education is changing practices, attitudes and behavior, resulting in lower livestock losses and lower lion persecution numbers. This success is being achieved through collaboration between the Lion Guards, MET and other NGOs in the area.

In order to expand the scope of its work along the Western Etosha border, to protect persecuted lion populations and encourage further changes in livestock management in North-West Namibia, AfriCat are keen to employ at least 5 more Lion Guards.

This is where YOU can help!!! HELP US to protect the Namibian Lion by supporting the farming communities through the Lion Guard Programme.

This is practical, front-line, community support work, which has proven success in protecting both farming livelihoods and the wild lion population, within their natural environment!

This is at the core of AfriCat’s ambitions… to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, TO PROTECT AND CONSERVE, BOTH HUMAN AND WILDLIFE POPULATIONS AS THEY SURVIVE AND THRIVE TOGETHER, SHARING THE SAME NATURAL ENVIRONMENT…..

BE A PART OF IT!

“ Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.”  –The Lorax, Dr Seuss

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