WINDHOEK, July 26 — For as long as Josefina Samukolofu, an elderly farmer from Sangwali in Wuparo conservancy in the Zambezi region, north-eastern Namibia, can remember, lions have always been unwanted visitors to many in the area.
Invasion by wildlife always means three things for the villagers: loss of livestock, damage to property, or a mere visit, with the latter a rare occurrence.
“The lions kill our livestock as some of our traditional kraal structures are not strong enough. It is painful losing cattle, and to date, I have lost count,” said Samukolofu, adding that farmers band together average-sized tree branches to construct the kraals (enclosures), which lions easily evade.
Thanks to a lion-proof kraal built in May this year, ambient sunbeams brighten her days.
Samukolofu is one of the beneficiaries of lion-proof kraals, constructed under a joint project by the Kwando Carnivore Project and the Community Conservation Fund of Namibia in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.
Romeo Muyunda, a spokesperson for the ministry, on Monday told Xinhua that the 1.3 million Namibian dollars (about 77,367 U.S. dollars) project targets the construction of 30 lion-proof kraals in critical human-wildlife conflict hotspots.
“Lion predation on cattle has become a widespread and reoccurring problem in the conservancies, which attributed to a steady increase in lion numbers since 2012, and largely to recovering wildlife populations,” he said.
Human lion conflict resulted in the loss of 412 cattle from 2015 to 2020 and the retaliatory killing of 20 lions from 2012 to 2020.
Focal areas include Mashi, Sobbe, Dzoti, Wuparo, and Balyerwa conservancies, covering 1,359 square kilometres where 7,879 people live.
The farmers provide all poles for construction, while the conservancy and the Kwando Carnivore Project provide fencing, equipment, skilled labour, and training, which reduces kraal construction costs, allowing for the construction of more kraals.
“By requiring involvement, the farmer is also invested in the upkeep and long-term maintenance of the newly constructed kraal,” Muyunda said.
So far, more than 10 lion-proof kraals have been constructed, with more set for completion by August 2022.
“The new kraals are securer because the poles are strong and are netted together differently with wires. We are now better off knowing the livestock is safe from lion attacks because we have the protection of the fenced-off kraals,” Samukolofu said. “Though we have lost cattle to lions, the lion-proof kraals means a second chance to rebuilding and our cattle to multiply in numbers.”
The project is also envisaged to significantly impact the country’s conservation efforts. According to Muyunda, the Kwando wildlife dispersal area is a vital area for the transboundary movement of many wildlife species.
“It is pivotal to the success of Kavango-Zambezi transfrontier conservation area as a conservation landscape and a crucial area of connectivity for lions connecting Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia,” he said.
The construction of the kraals would further complement the initiative of deploying eight GPS collars on lions to act as a landscape-based early warning system in the Mudumu landscape. (Xinhua)