This month, we have made major strides with our lion work in Northern Botswana. The lion population is showing signs of stability and growth while we modify our approach to livestock enclosures with strong results.
First, the lions. Mayenga was seen mating with a male from the Vumbra area in early August. We are excited about this for two reasons. Mayenga and her pride-mate have successfully raised two females to subadulthood! Although the females had 6 cubs at this time last year, natural cub mortality is high even in productive regions. Considering the constant influx of unknown males, we are excited to see that she has defended the lives of two females that will stay with the pride and double the breeding potential in the upcoming year. These subadults will soon find mates of their own!
Also, our two collared males- Nduraghumbo and Mtulawankanda- have joined forces! You will remember that Nduraghumbo is an old male that was part of a larger coalition that was targeted and killed by villagers in 2013. He has been traversing the region on his own trying to avoid confrontation with territorial males. Mutlawankanda is the younger male that was holding Mayenga's pride. It is unclear whether there is a blood relationship between these two males, but the pairing is unexpected. In previous studies, we have seen younger males pair up with older males to form new coalitions, the advantage being that two males can defend a pride better than a singleton. This is likely what brought these two together. We will monitor their movements to see how long the remain together.
Next, we have finished out 10th livestock enclosure and this one is a monster! Our previous livestock enclosures were square in shape and large enough to keep fewer than 100 head of livestock. They were for use but also a demonstration of how enclosures could be built. To date we have not recorded a single head of livestock killed in any of our enclosures yet as we started building more and more, community members with larger herds asked for larger enclosures. With limited resources we could not build an enclosure twice the size, but in Moyagogo we decided to discuss the matter directly with the owner. He wanted a larger, round enclosure and we said that we could only do it with his help. He spent nearly every day with our team, chopping and weaving branches to make the enclosure exactly to his needs. In the end it was twice the size of our normal enclosure, but strong as all of the previous.
Our new approach has many benefits. First, the enclosure is exactly what the owner needs. Second, he was true to his work and helped in construction so he is invested in its success. Third, he knows exactly how it was built and how to repair it. Fourth, he can explain to his neighbors the benefit and he has pride in his work.
We will take this approach to our next enclosure in Jungwe and beyond!
Help support our efforts to monitor these persecuted lions and build sustainable livestock enclosures across the region- visit our donation page today!