Supporting Large Carnivore Research, Northern Namibia
April 24 2013

ALERT is proud to announce our support of the Large Carnivore Research Project in northern Namibia

Etosha Carnivore Research Unit

Each year an outbreak of anthrax in northern Namibia provides the resident lion population, and other predators, with a glut of carcasses to feed on.  The long-term effects of consuming diseased carcasses on the health of this population however is unknown.  ALERT is proud to announce its support of the Large Carnivore Research Project, the first project of its kind to examine the effects of anthrax on lion ecology.  The study will relate the differences in anthrax outbreaks on the long-term population fitness of lions, while evaluating the immunological responses of predators to outbreaks and repeated exposure. 

According to a report published at the end of 2012 by researchers coordinated by a team at the Nicholas School of the Environment, it is estimated that some 450 lions live in northern Namibia and is a potential stronghold for a species in decline across Africa.  This research program will also seek to provide greater accuracy to previous estimates of lion density and distribution in the region.  Demographical data records will provide the groundwork for the continued and on-going monitoring of this population.  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 the region's lion populations.

Livestock depredation threatens the livelihood of local communities and is often cited as the most common cause of human-wildlife conflict.  Lions and spotted hyenas face heavy persecution along park borders and retaliatory killing of carnivores in response to actual or perceived livestock depredation is common, and undermines conservation efforts.  This project will seek to; determine the impacts of human-induced mortalities on boundary prides and the subsequent effects on the overall population of the park, to identify the high-risk areas for human-wildlife conflict, to assess the factors leading to livestock depredation, and to develop risk mitigation strategies. 

Carnivores play an important ecological role in Africa's ecosystems, contributing 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.  Competition between species serves as the driver for biodiversity, whilst predation serves to mitigate competition between similar species meaning that more species are able to utilize habitats.  As such, large carnivores are biological indicators of species richness as a whole.  By understanding the interactions among predators as individuals, as social groups, and as species we can improve management and conservation of both species and the ecosystem as a whole. 

Nancy Barker at Etosha Pan

Nancy Barker is the lead researcher for the program (pictured above at the Etosha Pan).  Nancy has previously been 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 on various species including; baleen whales in the Bay of Fundy; neo-tropical bats in the Panamanian forests; coral reef fish communities in the Caribbean; Japanese Macaques; and Arctic wolves in Canada.  Her research is being funded and supported by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the University of California at Berkeley, Lotek Wireless Solutions, Inc., and the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), based in Zambia.

The project is in need of an additional funding to purchase satellite collars for lions.  If you are able to support this vital research by helping to fund the needed collars please use the donation buttons on this page.  For further information on this project click here.

For more general information about lions in Namibia, click here.

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