Desert lions in poor condition, but not dire – Ministry
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism undertook a body condition assessment of lions in the northwest which revealed that lions maintaining home ranges further west also known as desert-adapted lions are in poor condition, though not dire.
These lions have persisted throughout the recent drought and intermittent rains, ministerial spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said in a statement.
“Prey species have since slowly returned to their home ranges. As is to be expected, lion movements across the area have been incredibly dynamic as individuals and groups search for available, highly-mobile prey,” he said.
The desert-adapted lion population in Namibia has increased over the past 20 years from approximately 20 lions in 1997, to about 100, which has resulted in increased conflict between humans and lions, which has become particularly acute due to drought, Muyunda said.
According to Muyunda, from 2021-2022, ten lions (out of 80 to 100 lions excluding cubs of less than a year) were killed across the landscape, primarily as retaliatory killings following conflict incidents.
He said, following the lion body condition assessment, the ministry has overseen the collaring of more than 35 lions across the northwest to study behavior via movement patterns while also providing farmers, ministry staff, and lion rangers with notifications to prevent and mitigate human-lion conflict in the shared landscape.
“The ministry will continue to monitor lion movements and conditions, together with the lion rangers, in these areas. This includes more than 50 lion rangers performing regular foot and vehicle patrols, monitoring GPS satellite collars, and deploying Early-Warning Towers at human-lion conflict hotspots. It also covers intensive research on lion spatial ecology conducted by the Ministry and its partners,” he said.
The ministry undertook the body condition assessment following concerns about their wellbeing coming from the public. As a result of the vastness of the area, the lions are active in two regions, each occupied by a subpopulation. Some lions are found on the conservancies west of Etosha National Park, and smaller, widely dispersed groups are found in the communal areas adjacent to the Skeleton Coast Park. These lions may even wander right up to the beach where they scavenge seals.
According to Muyunda, the lions maintaining home ranges further east, along the escarpment and the conservancies west of Etosha, are thriving, in good condition, and reproducing in strong numbers.