Human Wildlife Conflict


Conflict between wildlife and the Namibian people is a significant and well-documented problem. Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) is particularly common on the communal lands in northern Namibia, where elephants, for example, destroy crops and damage water installations, and large carnivores regularly prey on domestic livestock. These conflicts result in financial losses and disrupt the lives of the local people. Community-based natural resource management programmes (CBNRM) in Namibia, and the emergence of communal conservancies have contributed to growing wildlife populations. Although local communities on communal land and owners of freehold land benefit from wildlife, the increasing numbers of many wildlife populations lead to high levels of HWC. The individual farmers and pastoralists that live on the land are the ones that bear the actual costs of living with wildlife, but they seldom share equally in the benefits from wildlife. They generally receive no compensation for their losses, and little assistance in managing conflicts. This imbalance may lead to a perception that wildlife are conserved at the cost of the rural people, which may promote negative attitudes towards conservation and wildlife as a whole.

The involvement and empowerment of rural people in natural resource management, in combination with economic and financial incentives through sustainable use, and linked with skills development and capacity building, have been driving forces behind changes in attitudes towards wildlife on communal land in Namibia. The commitment shown by Namibians has led to the remarkable recovery and increase of wildlife populations. Despite this success, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has recognised that living with wildlife often carries a cost. Increased wildlife populations and expanded ranges into communal and commercial farming areas have resulted in more frequent conflicts between people and wildlife.

The philosophy of the CBNRM approach assumes that local communities will conserve wildlife, and bear the associated costs of living with these wildlife populations when the benefits they derive from the wildlife outweigh the costs. However, it is important to consider that individuals generally have to absorb the direct costs of HWC, whilst the community as a whole receive the benefits. Despite extensive monitoring of HWC incidents over the past decade, the implementation of several management systems, and the recognised significance of the problem, HWC is poorly understood and persists with increasing regularity. There is an urgent need to evaluate the status and levels of HWC in Namibia, and to implement a national policy framework for HWC management. Guidelines are needed to ensure objective monitoring and sensible measures to mitigate the conflict and increase the benefits of living alongside wildlife.

9 April 2009: Torra Conservancy. A meeting was held with the Torra Conservancy to discuss the future of lion conservation in the area and the management of conflicts with lions. Mr Bennie Roman opened the meeting, explaining the Conservancy’s commitment to conservation and the need to find workable solutions to the problem. Mr Vitalis Florry gave a detailed account of the problems they experienced with lions during the latter half of 2008. It was a productive meeting and Desert Lion Conservation agreed to develop a draft management plan that will include livestock management, lion eco-tourism, the training of Conservancy members to monitor lions, compensation protocols, and options to manage problem lions. Photos by Lez Weintrobe.

Emil Roman
Sally & Lez Weintrobe
Vitalis Florry
Steven Fuller
Euphrasius Dawids
Daniel Adams
Martin Basson
Bennie Roman
Albertus Simon
Sunny-boy Dawids
Philip Stander

Purros Conservancy - Case study. See 2008 Research Report for latest update.
During 2006 conflicts between humans and lions were assessed in the area north of, and including, the Hoanib River. The distribution of lions overlap with five conservancies: Anabeb, Sesfontein, Purros, Sanitatas, and Orupembe (see Figure 10). There were 14 incidents of lions attacking or killing livestock. They occurred in four of the conservancies and mainly between July and November 2006 (Figure 40). The community in the Anabeb Conservancy shot one adult male lion. This lion was marked with a radio collar (Xpl-32) and belonged to the Aub pride. Possible solutions to HLC are addressed further under the Eco-tourism section.

Figure 40. Monthly frequency of HLC in conservancies north of the Hoanib River in 2006.

Managing HLC in the Purros Conservancy
Coinciding with the Eco-tourism project, there is also a need to develop and implement a Human Lion Conflict Management Strategy for the Purros Conservancy. Limiting the amount of overlap between the areas used for livestock farming and the distribution of the lions, is arguably the most effective management option available to the Purros Conservancy. Lion movements in the Purros Conservancy is restricted to the southwest corner of the conservancy, but includes most of the Hoaruseb River (Figure 44). If this area where to be set aside by the Purros Conservancy for wildlife and not used cattle farming, the conflict with lions can be limited, if not avoided altogether. A wildlife zone (1,090 km2), that includes most of the current range used by lions, is proposed. The Hoaruseb River, however, is a critical zone with high potential for conflict as the Purros Conservancy depend on it for water and grazing. An assessment of lion movements in the River revealed that they seldom moved beyond a specific bend in the River, approximately 8km west of Purros (Figure 45). This point is therefore proposed, for consideration by the Purros Conservancy, as the boundary between their wildlife zone and the area used for cattle farming. The proposed boundary is 9.6 km west of Purros when following the course if the River, and 7.7 km when measured in a direct line. Click to view enlargements.

Figure 44. A proposed wildlife zone in the Purros Conservancy that include the areas utilised by lions.

Figure 45. The proposed boundary (blue line) in the Hoaruseb River of a wildlife zone, aimed at limiting Human Lion Conflict in the Purros Conservancy.