“Last week, as part of my role as Chairman of the UK charity AfriCat, I had the privilege of spending three days in the communities of Northern Namibia with one of Africa’s most inspiring conservationists, Tammy Hoth-Hanssen.
In her role as director of the AfriCat Foundation, Tammy and her small team of Lion Guards work tirelessly to address the multitude of issues arising out of human-wildlife conflict.
Tammy’s team work particularly in the area west and north west of Etosha where the protected Hobatere Concession meets communal farmlands head on. With a drought that stretches back four years and very little support for the maintenance of fences, lions and livestock are on a dangerous collision course.
AfriCat’s work has included educating local communities in how to minimise livestock losses, including with the building of kraals (strong pens with an inbuilt water supply) within which to place livestock at night, and the development of a detailed “early warning” system that includes the collaring of lions with a link to a GPS tracking system so that farmers can be warned, particularly at night, that lions are approaching their farmland.
Of course, very little can be achieved without the buy in of the local people to the message that the lions, that they see as predators, should be kept alive. In these most subsistent of communities, this is no easy task. At its most basic, without AfriCat’s further intervention, the lion population of Hobatere, the interface between Etosha and the desert lions, could practically be wiped out in one night! (disappear within the next 20 years).
Without lions, there will be no tourism… AfriCat also works to ensure that funds from tourism are more appropriately used for the benefit of the local population, including by working closely with the Hobatere Lodge, which is now owned by the local community.
With the help of the Lion Guards (hand-picked members of the local communities) the message is beginning to get through that AfriCat’s approach to addressing human-wildlife conflict is better for everyone’s long term interests than the traditional approach of trapping and shooting lions.
However, there is much work to be done. Only last Friday, a lioness mother that had been involved in the killing of a single cow that had moved into the protected area in search of grazing, was trapped, after this lioness followed the cow back out and onto farmland, suffering a night of agonising pain before being shot dead by a local farmer. Seeing first hand the trap (so heavy that a grown man could not lift it), the scene of the killing and the knock on effect on the lioness’ pride (now rudderless with two inexperienced younger females trying to feed up to six cubs) was certainly one of the more traumatic things that I have ever witnessed.
So where from here? In addition to the more immediate measures of building kraals and having lion guardians to perform the vital middle man role with the communities, the single most important input that we can provide is to assist with formal education.
That is why AfriCat’s fundraising this year will include a focus on building schools within these communities where the education of both children and adults can thrive and the further development of successful communities can be assured.
I was fortunate to witness, within the currently small tented schools, committed teachers delivering measurable success. Young children enjoyed a broad curriculum of early education while adults were also enthused by a structured environment of positive development. By way of one example, the ‘Mamma AfriCat’ programme gives local women a chance to discuss a range of social issues in a group. As the bedrock of their communities, these women can deliver a very positive and influential message to local people about the benefits of conservation.
Bricks and mortar will allow the schools to grow and to deliver education to more of those in need, across a still broader curriculum.
It is hoped that fundraising for the first of these new schools, to be named Lion Schools, will be completed by the final quarter of 2016.
For just under £50,000, a four classroom school can be delivered.
There will be specific fundraising efforts throughout the rest of the year. However, general donations to our UK Charity in the meantime will be greatly appreciated. We can guarantee that all sums marked ‘School’ will go directly and exclusively to the building of the first Lion School.”
To Donate: http://www.africat.co.uk/donate-to-africat