Namibia: Erongo Lions Relocated to Khomas

3 September 2018

THE environment ministry relocated five lions - two lionesses and three cubs - believed to have caused livestock losses in the Daures constituency to the Khomas region.

The animals are now at the N/a'an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary, located 50km from Windhoek.

A statement from the ministry on Friday indicated that the lions were allegedly involved in several livestock attacks in Daures, while also becoming tame to people due to possibly being fed around a lodge in the area.

Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said in the statement that before the relocation, the ministry had attempted to capture and release the pride to the Skeleton Coast Park twice, but they would return to Daures.

"We have noticed a strange behaviour in the lions that made us believe that they were fed by the people around the vicinity of the lodge. This is a practice we strongly discourage and condemn. The lions were close to the lodge most of the time, and as a result, had caused more livestock losses to communities," he stated.

The lodge is apparently in the Brandberg vicinity.

Director of parks and wildlife management at the ministry, Colgar Sikopo yesterday told The Namibian that an adult male lion which is showing similar behaviour - just to a higher degree - was captured for relocation to another farm a week before the capture of the lionesses and cubs.

"Unfortunately, he died of stress during the move," said Sikopo.

According to Muyunda, the lions will remain state property and will be relocated again, to a national park, once the ministry is satisfied with their behaviour.

In a statement issued by N/a'an ku sê, following the statement from the ministry, it was indicated that they were already contacted by the environment ministry early in August regarding lions.

A week of planning and logistics of this operation were put into motion, with help from another researcher who was already on the ground in the Brandberg vicinity.

Once planning was finalised, and paperwork from the ministry had been received, the veterinary team from N/a'an ku sê travelled to the location. Both lionesses were darted and transported to N/a'an ku se about two weeks ago. The three cubs were found and transported in a small cage with their mother. No tranquilliser was given to the cubs for the journey.

"Every precaution was taken by the veterinary team to ensure safe translocation," the statement read.

On arrival at N/a'an ku sê, the lions were put into a 10-hectare temporary holding facility, with electrified fencing. This temporary facility aims to allow them time to adapt and settle into their new environment. Direct observation and monitoring is done on a daily basis.

Once the vets and N/a'an ku sê management are satisfied that the lions are ready, they will be released into a 9 500 hectare nature reserve fenced with electricity, where they will hunt for themselves. This is planned within the next 3-6 weeks.

"The translocation of the lions is part of the ongoing quest to find sustainable solutions to human-wildlife conflict. Instead of shooting the lions, the decision by MET is a proactive decision to look for innovative sustainable solutions to the ongoing lion-human conflict. It could serve as a potential genetic bank for the desert lion population, and the two lionesses might even be translocated back into a protected area or national park as part of a scientific management programme led by MET, and involving The Desert Lion Project and the N/a'an ku sê Foundation," the statement read.

It rubbished social media reports of lions being bought and cubs dying in transit.

"From our understanding, these lions were habituated for tourism by baiting them, and therefore lost their fear of humans and became a problem. So, the cause of the problem once again starts with humans. The MET is unfairly criticised in this matter because if the lions were shot or trophy-hunted to mitigate the conflict or threat, then there would also be a social media uproar. It is the opinion of the Na an ku sê Foundation that the MET acted in the best possible way," it added.

Last year, four other problem lions were relocated from Kunene to Erongo.

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