MAJOR RESEARCH BOOST FOR ONGAVA RESEARCH CENTRE...

Ongava Research Centre, based in Namibia, is to receive a grant of $23,000 for a major conservation research project from The Zoological Society of Philadelphia, USA.

The project, called "Pride Dynamics and Dispersal in the Lion Population of Ongava Game Reserve", will initially run for 12 months starting 1st March 2010. The project, planned to extend for 5 years, is motivated by estimates that show major declines in Lion populations both in Namibia and throughout Africa. The IUCN currently lists Panthera leo as Threatened / Vulnerable, with 30-50% declines in global population numbers over the past 20 years.

Ongava Game Reserve, which is situated on the southern boundary of the famous Etosha National Park, currently supports a minimum population of 35 lions. This gives a density of 13 lions / 100km2 - similar to designated high lion density areas such as Kruger National Park.

The Lion Project serves to gain a more in-depth understanding of these lions, their impact on the reserve and to examine the issues driving dispersal of sub-adults to areas where they are at risk of being killed. Lions on the Reserve will firstly be identified through a process of marking. DNA will be extracted from samples at the on-site laboratory to use for parentage analysis. In order to monitor the precise movements of these animals, GPS technology will be used in the form of GPS collars to provide tracking data. These data will be used to assess kill frequencies and the type of prey.

The plan extends to developing an age-structured population model of Ongava's Lions. By working with government scientists, the model will be extended to incorporate lion populations in the Etosha National Park. The information gathered will ultimately be able to provide a more accurate knowledge of the status of the entire lion population in Namibia.

Ongava staff will be working closely with the Zoological Society of Philadelphia over the next twelve months and beyond, to develop research ideas, exchange project data and organise site visits.