Study area

The Namibian lion is the most threatened and endangered of the large carnivore species, and arguably also one of the more vulnerable large mammals in Namibia. Their distribution is confined to large protected areas and extreme arid environments. Throughout their range, and along the borders of the protected areas, conflict between lions and the Namibian people is a regular and significant problem. Lions prey on domestic livestock, and in protection of their livelihood, local people shoot, trap, or poison lions. These incidents of Human Lion Conflict result in significant financial and conservation losses. Furthermore, the lion is a key and flagship species for the influential and growing tourism industry.

The majority of lions that live outside protected areas occur in the arid habitats of the Kunene Region. The local communities share their land with free-ranging lions and, as a result, incidents of Human Lion Conflict are frequent. The Kunene Region, with its’ unique landscapes, fauna and flora, is also an important area for tourism. The conservation of lions in the Kunene region is therefore essential to address Human Lion Conflict, and to conserve a flagship species for the tourism industry. The Desert Lion Project contributes to this process by maintaining a comprehensive database on the densit, demography, and population ecology of lions. Through applied research and monitoring, the study collects sound scientific data to guide management strategies and the implementation of a National Lion Conservation Strategy.

The Desert Lion Project covers an area of 51,380 km2 in the Kunene Region that includes the Palmwag, Etendeka & Hobatere Concessions, the Skeleton Coast Park, and bordering Communal Conservancies (Fig. 1). The area falls in the Etendeka Plateau landscape of the northern Namib Desert, with an annual rainfall of 0 - 100 mm (Mendelsohn et al. 2002), and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the edge of human settlement and livestock farming in the east. The Kunene River runs along the north, and the Omaruru River forms the southern border of the study area.