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Reintroduction of Large Carnivores

Reintroduction of Large Carnivores

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Published by brentlion
reintroduction of large carnivores, specifically, lions.
reintroduction of large carnivores, specifically, lions.

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Published by: brentlion on Jan 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Reintroduction of Large Carnivores
Kalahari Game Lodge Lion and Cheetah Introduction
Background Project Progress Reports 
Many species decline due to loss of habitat and in Namibia, species like lions, wild dogs andspotted hyaenas are incompatible with livestock farming. Ongoing persecution has resulted in thecontraction of their ranges leaving them mostly confined to conservation areas. Where they dooccur outside these areas, they are a source of ongoing conflict with livestock farmers.One of the long-term objectives for large carnivore conservation in Namibia, stipulated by theMinistry of Environment and Tourism, is to identify key areas for the reintroduction of largecarnivores, such as lions, cheetahs and wild dogs.The fast growing tourism industry in Namibia has in many cases led to a change in land-usepractices from livestock farming to eco-tourism activities that is frequently based on wildlifesafaris. This shift in land tenure systems has created suitable habitat for many wildlife species,including large carnivores. This development has led to opportunities and demand for thereintroduction of large carnivores. Tourism and reintroduction are extremely compatible as theexpense of reintroduction is considerable, but a good investment for a tourism enterprise.One of the objectives of the PCT for the long-term conservation of large carnivores in Namibia isthe reintroduction of lions and wild dogs. We are in the process of identifying key sites for thisproject.
Members of the Predator Conservation Trust have been involved in the reintroduction of lions atthe Kalahari Game Lodge in the south of Namibia.The Kalahari Game Lodge (KGL), is a prime example of the eco-tourism revolution,transformed 27 000 hectares (66 000 acres) of traditionally sheep farming land into a wildlifearea. The land supports approximately 8000 medium to large-sized animals, ranging fromspringbok to eland. The land is surrounded by a sound game-proof fence that, in conjunction
with its size and the size of the prey population, makes it an ideal location for the reintroductionof large carnivores. The owner of the Kalahari Game Lodge, Mr Marius Els, became interestedin reintroducing lions and initiated the process in 1998.Reintroducing large carnivores into a new habitat is extremely complex. Although not attemptedpreviously in Namibia, but building on our previous experiences of reintroducing wild dogs andcheetahs, members of the Predator Conservation Trust assisted KGL in the reintroduction of three lions and two cheetahs during 2002.Kalahari Game Lodge (KGL) is a privately owned 26 000 hectare (65 000 acre) game farmsituated in the south east of Namibia and falls within the Kalahari Sandveld landscape with anaverage annual rainfall of between 150 and 200 mm.An electrified game-proof fence surrounds the entire property. Temporary holding facilities wereerected to facilitate the reintroduction of the lions and cheetahs. For the lions two holdingfacilities, each a minimum of one hectare in size, were built to house them for up to threemonths. A smaller camp (220 m2) was erected to house the cheetahs for 2 weeks before release.Before the reintroductions could take place it was necessary to write a management plan withguidelines for feeding the animals while in the bomas, release procedures as well as methods andfrequency of monitoring the animals after release. Most important of all was to make sure thatthe reintroduced lions did not breed to the point that they caused the prey species to decline.Initially the female cheetah and the oldest lioness were placed on contraceptive implants. Apredator/prey model was developed and included in the management plan which determined thenumber of lions and cheetahs that KGL could sustain without causing a decline in the preypopulations.
It was estimated that KGL could support up to 6 Cheetah so a male and female cheetah werebrought in by aircraft and placed in their boma for two weeks before a passive release.Conservative calculations indicated that KGL can support between 4 and 6 lions. As KGLborders the Kalahari Gemsbok Park in South Africa, the park authorities were concerned aboutlions escaping into the park and breeding with the Kalahari lions. They requested that Kalaharilions be used for the exercise. As lions are not allowed to be imported into Namibia, specialpermission had to be obtained from the Minister of Environment. It was decided to reintroducethree from the Kalahari Gemsbok Park (KGP) which is adjacent to KGL, but on the SouthAfrican side of the border. One male and two females were captured by the National Parks Boardand imported into Namibia.The park authorities darted one male and two female lions and travelled to Mata Mata gate onthe Namibian boundary where the lions were transferred into the vehicle of KGL.They were then driven to the bomas and radio collared and the females placed on contraceptiveimplants before being placed inside the bomas to recover.

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