Vision of the Desert Lion Conservation

Namibia supports a unique population of lions that lives in the Northern Namib Desert. This small population of desert-adapted lions survives in extreme desert conditions; they exhibit unique adaptation to their environment and live in a harsh habitat of sand dunes, gravel plains and barren mountains, and occasionally forage along the beaches of the Skeleton Coast. Nowhere else in the world can free-ranging lions be seen amongst sand dunes or on a beach. As a result, the iconic "Desert" lion has become a prominent feature in Namibia and is highly valued, both aesthetically and financially, by conservationists and the growing tourism industry alike. These lions should be viewed as a national asset to Namibia and we need to conserve and manage them wisely for the benefit of the Namibian people, as well as the broader international community.

Lions and other large carnivores have a substantial impact on the resident rural communities of the Northern Namib. Predation on livestock results in financial losses and occasionally threatens the livelihoods of subsistence pastoralists. Although livestock is not an important source of food for the lions of the Northern Namib, the mortalities that result from incidents of human-lion conflict are what mostly cause the limiting of the Desert lion population.

Many Namibians depend on the land for their subsistence. But the presence of lions, combined with the settlement and livestock husbandry patterns of people, leads to clashes. An increase in wildlife numbers in the Kunene Region since 1991 - attributed, in part, to the innovative Communal Conservancy and Community- Based Natural Resource Management programmes, for which Namibia has been praised globally - has, ironically, led to heightened conflict between lions and people. While income-generating enterprises, such as tourism, have thrived, considerably less attention has been paid to addressing human-lion conflict. In most conservancies, the income earned far exceeds the combined costs of livestock losses due to lions. Unfortunately, these benefits do not reach the individual farmers that suffer losses. They respond instead by shooting or poisoning lions to protect their livelihood. Also as a result, local people often become disgruntled and resentful towards lions and are less inclined to support conservation practices.

Addressing the conflict between people and wildlife requires striking a balance between conservation priorities and the needs of the people who share their land with wildlife. Managing human-lion conflict in the arid environment of the Kunene Region is complex. Sporadic and variable rainfall patterns, typical of arid environments, result in large overlapping home ranges amongst the lions that often clash with local farmers in search of suitable grazing for their livestock. However, lions are important to the growing tourism industry and there is an urgent need to manage the clashes between people and lions in the region. Understanding the population demography and behaviour ecology of the lion population is essential to this process.


  1. Collect baseline ecological data on the population dynamics, behaviour, and movements of lions.
  2. Monitor the key ecological & biological parameters of the desert lion population.
  3. Maintain long-term records of individual lions, pride structures and movement patterns.
  4. Research and development of mitigation mechanisms to manage human-lion conflict.
  5. Research and development of mechanisms to improve the tourism potential of lions and other forms of sustainable utilisation.
  6. Provide training and contribute to capacity building at local, regional and national levels.
  7. Collaborate with Government, local communities, the tourism industry, and NGOs to further lion conservation and address human-lion conflict.
  8. Make relevant information available to the world, through publication and the internet.