Protecting desert lions not possible without satellite connectivity
Namibia’s celebrated barefoot lion whisperer, Dr Flip Stander, depends heavily in his work on the connectivity provided for his collared desert lions by Paratus Namibia, to monitor their movements and to prevent human lion conflicts before they happen.
Dr Stander’s work is the main reason why the desert lions have come back from the brink of extinction 30 years ago with only 20 lions estimated to roam a vast area covering some 600 by 200 kilometres. Over the years, the good doctor has tracked his lions for thousands of kilometres, drawn up hundreds of movement graphs, totally destroyed two Land Cruisers, and upset a host of government officials until they realised the commercial value of the lions. Today, there are about 100 of these specially-adapted lions. One male even crossed the Kunene River, venturing into southwestern Angola, before returning to his home turf after a few weeks.
Most of the conflict between humans and lions happens in and around villages and settlement, but there is another form of conflict, which Dr Stander helps to prevent. Every year with the popular Torra Bay fishing season in December and January, thousands of enthusiastic anglers descend on the area.
This past season, Dr Stander spent 25 days in December and January camping out in the area to observe the lions and alert humans of any impending danger with the use of flashing strobe lights.
“The concern is that if the lion kills are interrupted or the environment is disturbed, there could be potential human-lion conflict and upset the pattern of survival for many of these lions. By observing one lioness in particular, we saw that while there were many interested ‘tourists’, we were able to dissuade them from approaching the lioness. What was really astounding was how the lioness adapted very quickly to the large number of vehicles now in the area. She dragged her fur seal catch over 4 kilometres inland for and generally spent less time on the beach now covered in keen anglers.”
Executive Chairman of Paratus, Barney Harmse said: “Flip Stander’s work is so important – for our unique cultural heritage and for protecting both people and animals. Our help in keeping him connected so that his reports and alerts can be sent timeously is critically important, and we are proud to be able to help in this way.”
The Desert Lion Conservation Trust has established a research station at Mowe Bay in the Skeleton Coast National Park where all the data is collected, analysed, and stored, and where the alert messages are generated. The Mowe Bay research station is currently equipped with a Paratus VSAT system using the Omajova P-A-Y-G package.
Harmse said: “The Desert Lion Conservation Trust carries out vitally important work – not only for the lions and local communities but also for local tourism because the desert lions attract increasing worldwide interest. It is vital that we keep the DLCT connected and help the trust to maintain its data, its fast transmission, and its monitoring.”