Desert-adapted lions on communal land: Surveying the costs incurred by, and perspectives of, communal-area livestock owners in northwest Namibia

John M. Heydinger, Craig Packer, Jendery Tsaneb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Though subsistence pastoralism is the primary land-use throughout much of Africa, lions (Panthera leo) living outside protected areas are largely overlooked in discussions of pan-African lion conservation. In northwest Namibia, a unique population of desert-adapted lions has grown by >400% over the past twenty years. This growth has primarily taken-place upon communal conservancy land. Human-caused lion mortality following human-lion conflict (HLC) is now the primary direct threat to the persistence of these lions. HLC exacerbates challenges faced by pastoralists from an ongoing drought. Our survey is the first-ever attempt to quantitatively and qualitatively examine local pastoralists' perceptions of the desert-adapted lions and the impacts of living with lions in northwest Namibia. Results show that losses, due to drought and lions, are differentiated by livestock species and that the magnitude of livestock losses during the drought has been exacerbated by predation. Respondents in different conservancies reported different levels of hostility towards lions. Across all conservancies, though 83.9% do not benefit from living with lions, 75.9% state that it is important to continue to share communal land with lions. We discuss the cultural and livelihood effects of livestock losses as well as the implications of balancing the costs and benefits of living with lions for lion conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-504
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was performed with the permission of the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism, research permit #2269/2017. Prior to survey implementation, methods were submitted to the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board (IRB ID: STUDY00001587), who exempted the survey from further oversite. Surveys were designed with feedback from Leela Hazzah, Jeff Muntifering, Basilia Shivute, and Russell Vinjevold. Nicholas Buchanan assisted with IRB review. Thanks to all the Conservancy Game Guards who assisted: Ronald Karutjaiva, Colin Kasupi, Karuhpere Musaso, and Jackson Wazungu. Thanks to Conservancy chairmen Titus Runguundo (Anabeb), Useil Naub (Sesfontein) and Allu Uararavi (Puros) for facilitating. NACSO and WWF-Namibia provided North West Game Count data which was reprinted with permission. NACSO images used with permission of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organizations and WWF-Namibia. Funding: This work was supported by a Macquarie University Big History, Anthropocene Grant; the Macquarie University Department of Geography and Planning; and the University of Minnesota Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Desert-adapted lions
  • Drought
  • Human-lion conflict
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Lions
  • Namibia


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