Game Warden

Dr Philip (Flip) Stander - Desert Lion Conservation

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Dr Philip (Flip) Stander is an expert in the field of conservation, with lots of experience in a number of areas. Flip has worked with the desert lions for many years, and previously worked for Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in a variety of roles. Flip has worked with the bushmen in the past and speaks Ju/Hoan to a basic level.

 

For a full biography visit www.predatorconservation.com/flip.htm.

 

To find out more about Dr Stander's work please visit www.desertlion.info.

 

How long have you been working with the desert lions, and how did you first get interested in them?

 

Since 1984 (1984-1989, 1998-present) – 17 years. I got involved in 1984 when a male lion moved south along the skeleton coast, threatening fishermen at Mile 72, and was then shot.

 

Do the desert lions differ from lions people may have seen in other places such as Etosha? If so what are the differences ?

 

Anatomy: not significantly, although they have thicker coats – probably because of the cold & misty conditions along the coast, but there are behavioural differences due to adaptation to the desert conditions. These include grouping patterns, range use, & predation. Data & details are available on my web site here:

 

www.desertlion.info/dlion.html

 

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What future do you foresee for the desert lions in Namibia?

 

The long-term goal is to have the desert lions range from the Orange River, in the south, to the Kunene River, in the north.

 

What are the biggest challenges with studying the desert lions?

 

Conflict with local communities over livestock.

 

What is the most rewarding aspect of the work for you?

 

Living in one of the most spectacular places in the world, and studying an animal so well adapted to the harsh environment.

 

What are the difficulties experienced in working in such a region as the Kunene and how self sufficient does one have to be when undertaking such a project? Aside from the research aids what does your "Packing List" consist of for this amount of time in the desert?

 

It is a way of life. You have to be totally self-contained. But, you can’t think of it as an excursion, or a field trip, with a list of things to take along. You have to live in the field - e.g. my vehicle is my transport, my office, my laboratory, and my house.

 

How closely do you work with the local communities?

 

Although I work alone, I interact regularly with the local people.

 

What changes have you seen in the attitudes of local people to the lions since you started your work?

 

The changes have been massive. But, these changes, where local people are now accepting and even protecting lions, is the result of the efforts of many individuals (i.e. IRDNC) over the past 30 years.

 

Is there much conflict between the local community and the desert lions?

 

Yes – it is the main limiting factor for the lions, and the livestock losses due to lions (despite it being an insignificant part of the lions’ diet) have a big impact on the local communities.

 

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In the conservation field, where there are so many entities seeking funding, how do you approach each application and what do potential funders seek from your work?

 

During the past 3 years I have avoided this problem by running the project on a shoestring budget. My main funding is in-kind donations, for example: fuel, tires, and basic supplies. This has allowed me to spend 100% of the time in the field, focussing on the research and the conservation problems at hand.

 

What impact do you think increased tourism will have on the desert lions and the area in which they live?

 

It will have a big and (hopefully) positive impact. Much of my current work is focussed on ensuring that the local communities derive benefits from lions through tourism that out-weigh the costs of living alongside them.

 

Given that your research vehicle has been attacked by a desert lion, and a tourist vehicle was also attacked the previous year, do you have any concerns over the safety of tourists, and what can be done to minimise risks?

 

The tourism development is not without its problems. The two attacks you refer to were both the result of incidents where lions were harassed by tourist vehicles. In response to this problem, I have developed a training course (free of charge) for tour-guides on approaching and viewing lions. The course has been offered to the major tour operators in the region and training is ongoing.

 

The Predator Conservation Trust supports the conservation of endangered carnivore species through education, logistical and financial assistance: the Trust funds and supports a number of conservation projects based in Africa. The website can be found here: www.predatorconservation.com.

 

 

The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk.

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Thank you, Dr. Flip Stander for sharing your thoughts on your important mission in understanding animal behavior and training humans about our behavior around wildlife. I enjoyed reading your comments and opinions.

 

I remember first learning about desert lions when I read Cry of the Kalahari. Interesting how lions adapt, such as those in the desert and then on the other end of the spectrum, those in the Duba Plains area.

 

How stupid can tourists get provoking lions. It could be the last thing they do. Unfortunately, the lion’s retaliation could be one its last acts as well.

 

Thanks for the interview.

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How stupid can tourists get provoking lions. It could be the last thing they do. Unfortunately, the lion’s retaliation could be one its last acts as well.

 

I think its mainly ignorance on the part of the drivers of the vehicles. If they had a better understanding of lion behaviour then they'd be able to tell when its time to back off and avoid problems. Hopefully Flip's training for the guides will help with this.

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In Etosha, don't a lot of people drive themselves? I wonder if that is a contributing factor to poor behavior. Of course there are self drives in Kruger, it seems like there would be more people around to report problem behavior in Kruger. Just guessing becaue I've never been either place.

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In Etosha, don't a lot of people drive themselves? I wonder if that is a contributing factor to poor behavior. Of course there are self drives in Kruger, it seems like there would be more people around to report problem behavior in Kruger. Just guessing becaue I've never been either place.

 

Yes most people in Etosha drive themselves, but because you're not allowed off-road then you dont tend to get many problems (just a few idiots going too fast or getting out of the vehicle when they park).

 

I've heard reports from other countries about poor behaviour from self-drive people - almost always in 4x4s.

 

In the Kunene there arent too many self drive tourists except in organised groups as its not the sort of place you'd want to go by yourself - if you broke down then it could be along time till another vehicle passes if you're unlucky.

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This is an introduction to those unfamiliar with his work:

 

The TOSCO trust in collaboration with the Desert Lion Conservation project, extends an invitation to tourism professionals who wish to play their part in the conservation of Namibia’s natural resources.

 

Tourism professionals include operators, guides, accommodation providers, car rental companies, tourists etc…

 

Spread the news!

 

contact: info@tosco.org

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