Two lions escape from Etosha National Park

Two male lions escaped from Etosha National Park recently, causing damage at Oromaaua Village in the Omusati Region, where they killed three cattle and a dog. No loss of human life has yet been reported.

It is believed the two lions escaped from the park on the night of January 27, killing one ox that same night and another ox and a dog over the following two days, about two kilometres from the western fence of the park.

According to Michael Mumbaru, a nature conservation officer in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in Omusati Region, MET officials were immediately dispatched to the scene to assess the situation after a complaint was lodged with his office in Ruacana by affected residents in that area.

Following the MET officials' intervention, one of the lions was killed on January 31, after it reportedly showed signs of aggression and resistance against being safely taken back into the park.

MET officials and the Namibian police are now working around the clock to herd the remaining lion back into Etosha National Park. So far they have not been successful.

Should all else fail they will have to cull the lion to ensure the safety of the community and their livestock.

This is not the first case of human-wildlife conflict reported around the 22 square kilometre Etosha park, with four female lions having escaped in December, killing seven cattle at the same village. Residents of Oromauua Village have since expressed concern over the state of the park's fence.

They complain that the fence is dilapidated, making it easy for predators to get out and cause damage to their property, including livestock and urged the MET to repair the fence.

They now face two major challenges: drought, which is ravaging most of their livestock, and predators that are killing their remaining livestock.

Community members argue that due to the strict rules and limitations imposed by the anti-poaching unit of the police they are unable to inspect the fence to look for the possible gaps or breaches through which the wildlife to escape.

Despite the N$1,500 offered by government in compensation for every head of cattle lost, the farmers here say the amount is too little compared to the actual value of the cattle killed.

According to Afri-cat senior lion guardian Jackson Kavetu, their organisation built two protected kraals at Oromauua for local farmers to put their animals into at night to protect them from predators. He said the communities are making use of these, but due to the drought - which has devastated the northwestern regions, especially Kunene - they hardly use the kraals, as they have to allow their livestock to roam freely in search of grazing, even at night.

It is estimated that the value of the cattle killed thusfar by the two escaped lions is around N$10,000.

* Malakia Nashongo is an information officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Kunene Region.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia