Mesag Saal knows a lot about lions. He was the chief guide at Grootberg Lodge and is now assistant manager at Hobatere. Both lodges are owned by ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy in Kunene Region. He still takes tourists on game drives, and one of the questions they ask him is “How can we save lions?”
Mesag has a simple answer, which boils down to “Pay compensation to farmers for stock losses”.
Hobatere is a large tourism concession, 33,000 hectares set aside by the Namibian government for wildlife. Visitors to the lodge will find zebras, giraffes, antelopes and jackals, and if they are lucky they will see elephants – and lions. There are three prides currently in the area, all offspring of one female. She was well known to Mesag and he says it was possible to take tourists quite close to her.
Then she was killed. Shot by an angry farmer after she had taken a cow from his kraal. Tit for tat. There is drought in Namibia and the game has dispersed, looking for water. Under these circumstances lions are more likely to take cattle. What to do?
≠Khoadi-//Hôas and other conservancies pay compensation to farmers for stock losses, but doesn’t have sufficient funds to pay the full value of a cow, which would be around N$5,000. The conservancy rate is N$1,500. If they could pay the full value, says Mesak, then maybe the farmer would not have shot the lion, because he knows that lions bring tourist income to his community, because conservancy members work in the lodge.
Mesag thinks the Wildlife Credits scheme is a brilliant idea. He would love to tell visitors that they can save lions by contributing to the scheme, either as tourists when they see a lion, or as individual donors.