The Namibian Lion Population

Namibian lions have been studied and monitored intensively since 1980 (Junker & Stander 2001). The Carnivore Atlas (Stander & Hanssen 2004) estimates a population of 562-894 lions in three density distribution categories (below). There are five sub-populations, and only the reintroduced population (Kalahari Game Lodge) is isolated. The low-density distribution area represents both resident lions, at low density, and nomadic or dispersing lions. There is good evidence of lions moving between the Kunene/Etosha sub-populations, and between the Caprivi/Kaudum sub-populations. The two western sub-populations are effectively cut-off from the east, where lions form part of a larger population linking southern and East Africa.

Monitoring of key ecological parameters is essential for conservation and management Loveridge et al. 1990). There is a need to implement monitoring programmes for all four sub-populations of lions. Reliable data on population demography, ecology and distribution must be collected to aid and develop effective conservation strategies. A basic monitoring design is proposed for each of the four sub-populations.

Etosha sub-population
Etosha lions have been studied since 1980 (Junker & Stander 2001). These long-term data on pride structures, age-specific mortality, and family lineages are extremely valuable to the development of Lion Conflict Management Strategies (LCMS) and the National Lion Conservation Strategy. The continuation of some aspects of this monitoring programme is important. It will require little time and few resources, but will build on, and improve this valuable long-term data set. An evaluation of previous research (Junker & Stander 2001) indicates that the status and stability of the Etosha lion population can be measured from a sample of four key lion prides. By monitoring the size, age/sex structure, recruitment, and adult mortality-rates of the four key-prides, a sufficiently robust sample is obtained of trends in the population. The four key-prides consist of two in central Etosha (Okondeka & Gemsbokvlakte), one in western Etosha (Renostervlei/Dolomietpunt) and one in the east (Namutoni/Chudop). One GPS collar and two VHF radio-collar will be fitted to adult and sub-adult lions in each of the four prides. They will be monitored intensively once every quarter. During each observation, new additions to the prides will be marked, following approved procedures, to facilitate monitoring of pride compositions and population ecology. These monitoring results, coupled with tourist observations, as part of the Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (NLC Atlas), will present an adequate monitoring system for the Etosha sub-population.

Kunene sub-population - see Desert Lion Project

Kaudom sub-population
Lions in the Kaudom and Nyae Nyae Conservancy were studied between 1991 and 1996 (1997). With this study as background, the Kaudom monitoring design will follow guidelines from the Etosha studies and incorporate the skill and knowledge of the local community. Two prides (Leeupan/Doringstraat & Tsoana) will be monitored, following the Etosha model. In addition, spoor frequency counts (Stander 1998) and NLC Atlas data will be collected to supplement the monitoring programme.

Caprivi sub-population
Although lions in the Caprivi have been studied previously, there are little available data. Understanding the status and ecology of Caprivi lions is further complicated by regular movements across international boundaries. However, human-lion conflict is extensive and there is and urgent need for reliable data. It is proposed that systematic monitoring of this sub-population, in collaboration with neighbouring countries, be initiated immediately. The monitoring design should initially follow the Etosha model, focusing on four prides (Mahango, Susuwe, Madumu & Mamili areas), but must be adapted to local ecological conditions, as data become available.

Kalahari Game Lodge - reintroduction