BLAS COMMUNITY & CONSERVATION PROJECTS
Our aim is to conserve some of the most beautiful places in the world. We realise how deeply connected we are to each other and the earth – it belongs to all of us. Locally lead conservation efforts are needed all around the world to empower communities. It is our duty as a tour company to make sure communities benefit from nature and wilderness they help protect. It’s about helping communities become owners of their own tourism activities.
Hwange Elephant Movement Study
The overall aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of elephant movements and habitat use in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where elephant density is particularly high. This will be achieved by studying the relative contribution of resources (water and food), social interactions (dominance hierarchies) and predation risk (by lions) to this key aspect of elephant ecology.
Researcher: Arnold Tshipa
Although it is likely to have a low impact on elephant demography, regular predation by lion may lead elephant to respond behaviourally (e.g. avoidance) to lion presence. It has been shown in other herbivores that anti-predator spatial responses may override any other drivers of movements or habitat use and this needs to be studied in elephant.
- Collar 10 elephant cows with GPS collars.
- Determine the dominance status of the study’s herds using field observation.
- Determine resource availability and quality by regularly monitoring water presence in pans and quality of foraging patches. Also, determine local elephant densities using censuses.
- Determine movement parameters and habitat use through elephant GPS-tracking data.
- Determine predation risk by using field observation of lion presence and possibly lion GPS-tracking data.
- Build comprehensive models of elephant movement and habitat use which integrate all the above-mentioned aspects (resources, dominance status, and predation risk) to disentangle their relative contributions.
Namibia Desert Lion Conservation Project
Namibia supports a unique population of desert-adapted lions that survive in the harsh Namib Desert. The “desert” lion is a prominent feature in Namibia and is highly valued, both aesthetically and financially, by the growing tourism industry. Namibia has received international recognition (e.g. CITES) for successful conservation efforts, such as the Communal Conservancy Programme, which has lead to significant increases in wildlife numbers, especially in the arid areas.
With the growing wildlife populations, however, the conflict between lions and the local people has intensified as lions are killing livestock more regularly. In protection of their livestock, farmers often shoot, trap, or poison lions. These local communities bear the costs of living with lions, but do not share equally in the benefits from tourism, and they receive little assistance in managing conflicts.
The value of the unique “desert” lions to tourism in the Kunene Region in particular, and to the Namibian tourism industry in general, is of great significance. However, for the long-term conservation of desert lions to succeed, there is a need to monitor their population ecology and to address human-lion conflicts.
This long-term study therefore aims to learn more about this unique lion population and assist local communities with conflicts whenever and wherever they occur. This knowledge will help in the successful conservation of the species will benefit both the tourism industry and the local communities which generally bear the costs of living with these predators. Both lions and people will thus benefit from the project.
Researcher: Dr Philip Stander
Organization: TOSCO Trust
The Desert Lion Conservation Project was started by Dr Philip Stander in 1998. He worked for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for 23 years, studying the ecology of large carnivores. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1994, and his thesis on the evolution of sociality in felids, was awarded the “T H Huxley Prize” by the London Zoological Society. He is considered the Namibian “lion expert,” especially when it comes to desert-adapted lions, which he has studied full time for the last 14 years.
- Collect baseline ecological data on the population dynamics, behaviour, and movements of lions.
- Monitor the key ecological and biological parameters of the desert lion population.
- Monitor the frequency and impact of conflicts between people and lions.
- Develop and implement human-lion conflict management plans at local community level.
- Develop and promote specialised “lion eco-safaris” and other forms of sustainable utilisation.
- Collaborate with Government, local communities, and NGOs to further lion conservation.
- Make important information available to the world, through publication and the Internet.
Gondwana Eco Camp
Gondwana Game Reserve (GGR) has developed a one of a kind conservation tourism experience for individuals, families or groups who want to get more involved in Africa on their safari. BLAS in partnership with GGR actively supports this noble initiative. Participants will be involved in wildlife and veld management, learn important bush skills and interpretation, and simply enjoy a behind the scenes view of a Big Five private game reserve. The research and findings from the program are fed back to Gondwana’s conservation department to assist in decision making enhancing the reserve management plan. The itinerary will include plenty of game drives, bush walks, and down time in an utterly inspiring landscape. This is your chance to get involved with the important conservation work of a Big Five game reserve and not only enjoy but contribute.