We have some exciting news to share with you about the desert lions of northwest Namibia. These lions, renowned for surviving in the harsh environment of the Namibian Desert, were once known for their ability to hunt marine prey such as Cape fur seals, beached whales, and cormorants. However, in the 1980s, the desert lions abandoned the coast after local farmers wiped out most of their population.
In 2002, when the lions returned to the coast, ecologist Philip Stander, founder the Desert Lion Conservation Trust (DLCT), noticed that they were no longer hunting marine prey. He worried that the population had lost the knowledge. But in the last eight years, three orphaned lionesses, known as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, have led a coastal hunting revival on the beaches around Torra Bay.
The lionesses started targeting coastal prey in 2015 when a drought decimated Skeleton Coast National Park’s springboks, mountain zebras, oryxes, and ostriches. While the resurgence of the lions’ coastal hunting is exciting news, it has also brought risks. Last year, one of the lionesses charged an angler’s car. It’s unclear which lion was responsible for the attack, but it highlights the importance of respecting wildlife and keeping a safe distance away.
In the meantime, there are innovative solutions being used to protect both visitors and lions. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, along with the Desert Lion Conservation Trust (DLCT), has created a virtual fence line, known as a geofence, to track lions approaching a popular fishing and camping area around Torra Bay.
The geofence is an invisible barrier that records the GPS coordinates of lions wearing satellite collars when they cross it. The system sends automatic alerts to DLCT’s lion rangers and local campsite managers to close the area to visitors. The goal is to prevent potentially dangerous incidents between humans and lions, which are becoming more common as the lions re-establish themselves in the area.