Lion Response Team funded by tourism industry to manage conflict between local communities and roaming lions
An unprecedented escalation of human wildlife conflict in the Kunene Region has prompted the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA) to provide financial support to interest groups who are researching and managing the impact of lions on local communities.
TASA announced it will avail N$200,000 disbursed over 24 months through its Lion Response Team to support the work of the Human Wildlife Conflict Response programme. The funding will be channelled through the Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust and managed by Integrated Rural Development and Conservation (IRDNC).
Representatives of tourism and conservation met last week to finalise the agreement between TASA, the Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust, IRDNC, and the Desert Lion Conservation Project run by Dr Philip Stander.
TASA Vice-Chairperson, Bernd Schneider, said “This is the first time TASA makes funding available for conservation in this magnitude. Two years ago at our AGM, we found ourselves in a healthy financial situation and decided we want to give back to the tourism industry. The result of this decision was the launch of the Reinvest in Tourism Fund, for the greater benefit of the tourism industry and local communities.”
The Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust was chosen as the vehicle for the funding. This covers the running cost of the Lion Response Team’s field vehicle, which is instrumental in monitoring the movements of lions and elephants in the Kunene Region. The team helps conservancies to formulate and implement appropriate responses to mitigate human wildlife conflict.
Trust Chairman, Felix Vallat, advised that since the project’s inception a month ago, the response team has successfully attended to eight lion incidences in the area. “It also put 150 unregistered settlements on the map, which is part of the mission and mandate of the Northwest Lion Management Plan, as endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. What’s great about this project, is that various conservation organisations are standing together as one team” he added.
John Kasaona, the Executive Director if IRDNC said that this funding comes at just the right time following the recent incidents of heavy livestock losses causes by roaming lions. “We were becoming hopeless. At least now the community will receive a sense of assistance through the presence and support of the response team. It will benefit communities by reducing the level of conflict they currently experience,” he said.
Any response to human wildlife conflict depends heavily on the work and endorsement of Namibia’s apex lion researcher, Dr Stander. “Conservation will not be as successful without key figures like him,” said Kasaona. Dr Stander, through the Desert Lion Conservation Project, will assist with the research component of the programme.
Not a man of many words, Dr Stander pointed out that the implementation of the Human Wildlife Conflict Response programme, is a team effort. “The main benefit of this agreement, apart from the funding, is the newly established partnerships – it’s going to take us places,” he said.
TASA’s Schneider said this funding lays the groundwork for future projects supported by the tourism industry and its partners.
FNB Namibia is also supporting the work of the programme with a N$20,000 donation for uniforms, boots, and field gear.
Pictured, from the left, Felix Vallat, Chairman of the Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust, Dr Philip Stander of the Desert Lion Conservation project, John Kasaona of IRDNC; and Carsten von Lüttwitz and Bernd Schneider of TASA.