Living with lions: benefits and costs

“Call me Al, or Ally,” says Aloysius Waterboer when he greets visitors to Grootberg Lodge, which is pioneering the Wildlife Credits Scheme. Ally is a tour guide, and the first thing tourists often ask him is where he comes from.

He tells them about the farm where his family live, and suggests they watch out for it if they drive the gravel road to Khorixas. It is right on the turn off to Damaraland Camp, another joint venture lodge between communal conservancies and the private sector.

His sister lives on the farm, and recently lost goats from the kraal to lions prowling the area. It’s a common story in Torra and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies. The lion population west of Etosha National Park has grown from around 40 to over 150 in the last two decades, thanks to conservation.

Ally weighs up the advantages and disadvantages. Lions and other wildlife bring him an income as a tour guide. But the lions also take livestock, which eats into the family income. The compensation paid by the conservancy for goats lost to predators is small, and often there is no payment, because the goats were not properly protected. Building a kraal in this arid and remote area is not easy, where wood is scarce and cement comes in at a high cost.

As a farmer, Ally has mixed feelings, but he loves to drive across the Etendeka Plateau at sunset and to show off the oryx, zebra and springbok. You can’t guarantee lions or elephants, he says, but he knows that his income depends upon their survival.