Namibia: Strategy on lion conservation on cards

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New Era (Windhoek)
11 September 2008
Posted to the web 11 September 2008
By Wezi Tjaronda
Experts are meeting in Windhoek to map out a strategy that will guide Lion Conservation in Namibia.
The lion in Namibia is not only the country’s most threatened and endangered species, but also one of the most vulnerable large mammals.
Namibia is required to develop a strategy like other lion range states. The strategies follow a debate to restrict trade in trophies at the CITES Conference of Parties 13 held in Bangkok four years ago, which highlighted the need for a pan-African consensus on the way forward for lion conservation.
Rangeland states agreed to hold workshops, which would develop lion conservation strategies.
Strategies are currently being developed in Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia, while Zimbabwe already has a strategy in place. The workshop is the first step towards developing management strategies that ensure long-term lion populations and improve sharing of benefits derived from lions.
Director of Scientific Services in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Fanuel Demas, yesterday said the workshop was long overdue because Namibia is one of the African Lion range states with significant lion populations.
It is estimated that Namibia had between 560 and 890 lions between 1999 and 2004.
Demas, who was speaking on behalf of the permanent secretary, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, said lions are indispensable assets, which contribute to the country’s economy.
“The strategic goal is further to recognise lion potential for providing substantial social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits,” said Demas.
Apart from attracting tourists, lions prey on domestic livestock and cause economic and human life losses.
The need for strategies resulted from a proposal from Kenya and Mali, who wanted the lion to be transferred from CITES Appendix 2 to Appendix 1 because of the decrease in the lion population over the years but Namibia and South Africa were opposed to the proposal because of the long-term negative effects it would have on local communities such as increased human-lion conflict.
According to Demas, lion mortalities in Namibia are as a result of social conflicts, shooting especially on sub-adults, natural mortalities such as drought and killings by other prides.
A study carried out in the Kunene Region noted that survival rate was high for the 1 to 4-year age group. The 3 to 4-year age group had a higher risk of dying because they were involved in the human-lion conflict, while those between four and 16 years were wiser and avoided conflict.
Although statistics are that 25 lions per year are killed along the southern boundary of the Etosha National Park, a farmer farming in the area said many farmers do not report lion kills. The farmer said most lions being killed were sub-adults because they were pushed away due to their being problematic.
The two-day workshop has brought together representatives of the farmers’ unions, wildlife foundations, lion researchers, conservancies, game farms, non-governmental organisations dealing with conservation and professional hunters.

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