I count 120 lion-proof bomas across the Mudumu Complex, all built by the hands and enthusiasm of Costa Sililo and Lucious Kakuwe, two young, local men jointly employed by Lise Hanssen’s Kwando Carnivore Project and Panthera. They’ve built these rustic yet effective structures to keep lions and other carnivores from preying on livestock. Ironically, in their five years dedicated to reducing human-lion conflict, neither of the men has seen a lion alive in the wild. That was about to change.
The Mudumu Complex is a key wildlife corridor in the Zambezi Region of Namibia connecting Angola, Botswana and Zambia right in the middle of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). These 120 bomas, also known as kraals or corrals, have reduced the number of cattle killed in the area by 95% from over 100 in 2012 to less than five in 2018. There have been no retaliatory lion killings in the Mudumu Complex in the past two years. Costa and Lucious have been instrumental in this effort to protect local farmers’ livelihoods and the area’s lions.
In appreciation for their hard work, I invited Costa and Lucious to join me on a routine radio-collar replacement mission for one of the three huge male lions that make up the Angola Males coalition (also known as “The Young Kings”). The excitement was evident in their searching eyes, and it wasn’t surprising that Costa was the first to spot the lions lying about in the hot afternoon.
Luckily for us, the collared lion didn’t run off after being hit with the tranquilizer dart, and once we chased off his brothers, we could get to work. What’s become a routine process for me was nothing less than magic and mystery for Costa and Lucious. The two dedicated team members couldn’t stop smiling as they examined every part of the sleeping lion’s anatomy, especially the massive forepaws, claws, and teeth.
Providing rural community members with valuable skills and creating economic opportunity, while helping struggling farmers to live well alongside lions, are the kinds of conservation actions Panthera is proud to support with partners like the Kwando Carnivore Project. When run with dedication and passion in partnership with the community and statutory authority programs, these projects can have a huge impact on reducing human-lion conflict by fostering tolerance and restoring the ancient traditions of co-existence.
Although the statistics are great, and watching the lions survive and prosper over the long-term is obviously the ultimate reward, occasionally, some real-time evidence that the program is working can be hugely gratifying. Recently, Mr. Kaiba, a gentleman from Ijambwe village, sent Lise a photograph of lion tracks right outside a boma, along with a note of thanks that the lions had not killed any of the cows inside. The first thing she did was to tell Costa and Lucious. The community, KCP and Panthera thank them for all their effort helping to ensure that people and lions can coexist here in the Mudumu Complex.