Skeleton Coast lions
Issue 3 (November 2008) Namibia’s Skeleton Coast Park has a small and isolated population of lions that has adapted to life in the harsh habitat of gravel plains and basalt mountains.


Occasionally these ‘desert lions’ are shot or poisoned by local people because they believe they have killed cattle and donkeys.

Recently The Kunene Lion Project has helped local communities organise controlled ecotourism, in particular photographic safaris. The hope is that occasional livestock losses will be better tolerated if the lions are bringing in an alternative income.

The project leader, Dr Flip Stander, carried out research between the Hoaruseb and Hunkap Rivers and found three prides living around ephemeral river systems. Some of the lions were fitted with radio collars and their movements tracked and analysed from the air. On the ground this information was used to increase the likelihood of seeing the lions – they were spotted on nearly seventy per cent of research trips. By providing more information to tourist operators, the Kunene Lion Project hopes to increase the success rate of finding and approaching desert lions during game drives and thereby increase their popularity. Conservancies are setting up a ‘lion fund’ which will manage all income derived from lion-related tourism and compensate the relevant conservancy members when livestock losses occur.

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