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22 Jun 2017. Xpl-93 and HWC in Perspective. Human Wildlife Conflict is a complex and serious problem that, if not addressed appropriately, treated with the necessary understanding and respect, and managed effectively, will harm, if not destroy, conservation efforts. This is particularly relevant to the CBNRM and Communal Conservancy programmes in the Kunene Region for which Namibia have been praised globally. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism have recognised this threat and are in the process of finalising a National Policy on HWC. Under this National Policy falls the Human Lion Conflict Management Plan for North West Namibia that has also been completed. The Desert Lion Project recognises the importance of investing in the development and implementation of these programmes.

When incidents of HWC in a particular area escalate, as was the case at Tomakas during 2016, it invariably leads to resentment and even antagonism amongst the affected parties towards wildlife and the associated conservation efforts. This was also the case at Tomakas during 2016. For example, after three of the “Five Musketeers” were poisoned in Aug 2016 the community, through their traditional leaders and conservancy representatives, expressed their anger at a public meeting in Sesfontein. During a heated debate numerous speakers blamed the Government, the conservation organisations, including the Desert Lion Project, and the tourism industry for attempting to conserve and protect lions at the cost of the local communities. The alarming perception that the above mentioned parties see lions to be more important than the well-being of the local people, was also expressed.

At 21h00 on 14 April 2017 the satellite collar of the last surviving member of the “Five Musketeers”, Xpl-93 also known as “Tullamore”, stopped transmitting data. After a careful study of the satellite data, it was concluded that Xpl-93 was most probably poisoned and the satellite collar destroyed near Tomakas. The incident was reported to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism. Due to the background (see above) and sensitivity of the situation an agreement was made that the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Namibian Police Force will investigate the incident and verify that the interpretation of the satellite collar data made by the Desert Lion Project is correct, before a public announcement is made.

The Ministry of Environment & Tourism were in the process of finalising their investigation when an independent third party got wind of Xpl-93’s death and released it to the press and on social media. The allegations they made against the Desert Lion Project for withholding information are irrelevant since the Ministry of Environment & Tourism is the responsible authority and we are legally obliged to report to MET and to adhere to the conditions of our research permit. Details of the Human Lion Conflict incident at Tomakas that led to the poisoning of Xpl-93 will be released by the Ministry of Environment & Tourism when their investigations have been completed.