Conflict management at Torra Bay - 2 December 2022

Mitigating potential conflict between coastal lions and anglers during 2022 Torra Bay Holiday Period

During the past year several groups of lions have frequented the coastal habitats and have utilised marine food sources (mainly Cape fur seals) between the Koigab seal colony, the Uniab Delta and the Hoanib River mouth. The discovery of Cape fur seals and other marine food items by the Desert lion population is a significant development from both a biological and conservation point of view. From the biological side, it is one of a few places on the Planet where a large terrestrial carnivore species is utilising food resources from two different trophic zones, which has benefits to the flow of nutrients between the zones and is important to global food webs. Desert-adapted lions have large home ranges to cope with the variability and low density of prey animals. In recent years this has resulted in all prides and groups of lions being involved in human-lion conflict. Notwithstanding, those lions that have subsequently discovered the marine food resources have, however, not returned to the Conservancy areas where people live with livestock. It is important for the conservation of the Deseret lion population that they continue to have access to the marine food resources as an alternative to livestock.

Disturbance to the lions when they are on the coast is a major concern that can lead to them avoiding the area. Due to the harsh environmental conditions along the coast, the lions are extremely vulnerable, with no cover or anywhere to hide. Surf fishing as a form of tourism, with people driving and walking along the beaches, is not compatible with viewing lions in such an open & exposed environment. Towards the end of the 2021/2022 Torra Bay season there were a number of incidents between fishermen and a lioness that led to conflict with the lioness becoming aggressive and even charging the vehicles.

Aggressive lioness near Torra Bay in Jan 2002 (source unknown)
Aggressive lioness near Torra Bay in Jan 2002 (source unknown). 

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism (MEFT) and DLCT are collaborating to address potential incidents of conflict. The following management plan and protocol was developed to mitigate and prevent such incidents, and we call on all visitors to adhere to the guidelines for their own safety and to help protect these unique lions during the upcoming Torra Bay holiday season.
The protocol consists of the following requirements and activities:

  • All lions will be fitted with satellite collars.
  • The lions will be tracked on an hourly basis and Torra Bay Management will be informed of the positions of the lions every day.
  • When lions visit the coast and are feeding on a seal carcass, a small section of the beach will be closed off temporarily.
  • A detailed map was developed of potential blocking points to protect a section of the beach where lions are active..
  • Information will be provided to the Torra Bay Office and updated daily.
  • Geo-fencing triggers will be developed and automated alerts will be sent to a relevant list of emails and cell phone numbers.
  • If at all possible, tourist need to be informed of the following rules: no off-road driving, no walking at night, and vehicles must be in camp between sunset and sunrise.

Map showing the Torra Bay fishing area, the access road and the potential blocking points to temporarily close off a section of the beach. 

Some members of MEFT that will be assisting at Torra Bay.
Some members of MEFT that will be assisting at Torra Bay.