The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Nation Celebrates World Lion Day

"This is the perfect opportunity for the world to take note of the plight of the African lion, for us all to take the time to ponder the reality of today's pressures on wildlife and the wilderness sustaining these wondrous animals who have, to date, stood the test of time - but for how long will they be able to run from man," said Tammy Hoth, Director of the AfriCat Foundation.

Namibia is a forerunner in Africa regarding conservation and sustainable management of wildlife.

Namibia's lion numbers range from between 600 and 800, found only in the Kunene, Etosha, and Caprivi region and in the Khaudom Park/Nyae-Nyae Conservancy along Namibia's border with Botswana.

Despite the low numbers, the status of the Namibian lion is regarded by many as 'healthy'.

After at least ten years of above-average rainfall in most parts of Namibia, as well as valuable data collected by researchers, it is believed that lion numbers and their distribution have increased in some regions.

"Persecution of lions by farmers has, however, continued unabated and with the first drought in years becoming a reality, livestock losses will be even less tolerated and more lions will be destroyed," said Hoth.

Human-wildlife conflict is ever present on both communal and commercial farmland, especially along the borders of Etosha, on surrounding farmland and in a number of communal conservancies.

With the Namibian Lion Management Plan yet to be finalised, guidelines as to best practice regarding long-term lion conservation are not in place in communal conservancies, nor on commercial farms.

Hoth also said trophy hunting quotas are only allocated to hunting concessions in conservancies, where reliable research data is absent in most cases and the methods used to establish these quotas are debatable. Black- maned, male lions are naturally favoured as trophies and bring the highest fees to the conservancy.

Large numbers of lions are trapped, shot and poisoned on farmland annually, with the mandatory reporting of such killings irregular - thus, the official lion mortality figures cannot be regarded as true, according to Hoth.

The AfriCat Foundation, with bases in central and northern Namibia, believes that Namibia's lions can survive.

"With programmes including research, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and community support, our motto 'Conservation Through Education' can and will support the long-term survival of our lions," Hoth concluded.

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