Monitoring large carnivore populations in Namibia
ALERT is proud to support the work of the Large Carnivore Research Project that studies the effects of competition for resources and human-wildlife conflict on the densities and distribution of lions exposed to an anthrax-centred food web in northern Namibia.
Carnivores play an important ecological role in ecosystems and contribute to ecosystem processes and species diversity. In the face of decreasing viable habitat areas with low predator densities often lead to ecosystem degradation and loss of biodiversity. As competition within multi-species community networks serves as the driver for biodiversity, predation serves to mitigate such competition between similar species so that more species are able to utilize certain habitats. For this purpose, large carnivores present as biological indicators of species richness. Understanding interactions among predators as individuals, social groups, and species (including humans) in these low density areas is of paramount importance for the management and conservation of both species and ecosystem function.
Northern Namibia serves as a stronghold for one of the few remaining wild areas where populations of lions exist. Lions occur at low densities and lions and spotted hyenas face heavy persecution along park borders which lie adjacent to farmland and human settlements. Livestock depredation threatens the livelihood of local communities and is often cited as the most common cause of human-wildlife conflict. Retaliatory killing of carnivores in response to perceived livestock depredation is common, and undermines conservation efforts. Additionally, there are periodic and cyclic anthrax outbreaks in northern Namibia which results in an annual surplus of infected carcasses on which predators feed. The long-term effects on predators consuming such resources are unknown. This project is the first of its kind to examine the effects of anthrax on lion ecology.
The combined effects of competition for resources, human-induced mortalities, and heightened, long-term exposure to wildlife diseases may have enormous ramifications on the long-term sustainability of such multi-species predator communities. This project will attempt to assess the viability of lion populations in northern Namibia, and to evaluate the extent of human-wildlife conflict from an interdisciplinary perspective, with a focus on livetsock depredation, and to explore sustainable risk-mitigation strategies.
This research will provide current density estimates and distributions of the lion populations with demographical records providing the groundwork for the continued and on-going monitoring of such populations. Knowledge of relative importance of the effects of interspecific competition, anthropogenic processes in the form of human-induced mortalities, and long-term repeated exposure to wildlife diseases is needed to guide management policies that can ensure the continued survival and viability of lion populations in northern Namibia.
This program, supported by NSERC (Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada), University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the University of California at Berkeley, USA is led by Nancy Barker. Ms. Barker was the principal researcher for a 2-year project on the endangered brown hyena in a protected area in South Africa, and, as an undergraduate she designed and participated in several research projects. These included an analysis on the diving behaviour of baleen whales in the Bay of Fundy; resource competition in neo-tropical bats in the Panamanian tropical forests; group dynamics of ungulates in a game reserve in east Africa; microhabitat partitioning of coral reef fish communities in the Caribbean; population demographics on the mating behaviour of captive Japanese Macaques; tree vegetative surveys in a 100m2 plot of the Amazon tropical forests; and the sensory ecology of captive Arctic wolves in Canada.
Click here for information about lions within Namibia.