Flip Stander Namibia Lion Tracker
We were in the middle of the desert, driving through a dry river bed of Hoanib Valley, located in the remote Kaokoveld of northwestern Namibia.
Out of nowhere we see a beaten up land cruiser, covered with WWF (World Wildlife Fund) bumper stickers, antennas, solar panels, as his vehicle comes towards us. Some guy with a scruffy beard and messy blond hair waved from the driver’s seat, and our guide said, “No way, there he is! It’s Flip!!” The guide told us that Flip is as elusive as wildlife, so a “Flip sighting” is really special. He then added that Flip lives in his land cruiser, tracks lions days and nights. Before he pulled up to the side of the car to greet him, he said be sure to look at the coordinates and notes written all over his hands, forearms, legs.
This guy turned out to be Dr. Philip “Flip” Stander, a leading lion expert, who has spent years in the wild with desert lions. A true “lion hero” if there ever was one! For the past 30 years, Flip has studied and tracked desert lions in northern Namibia. How does he track the lions? He follows them by GPS. How can he follow them by GPS? He puts a GPS collar on the lion with his bare hands!
This way he can monitor the lion population ecology and manage human-lion conflict. Our guide tells us why this is so important, “These big cats adapt to the desert life and live outside of protected areas, so this leads to conflict with the locals living in the area. Most locals use to shoot the lions so they wouldn’t lose their livestock as prey. Now with communal conservation’s progress, the local communities realize the economic benefits to preserve the lions.”
According to The Desert Lion Conservation Project there are now 150 roaming lions over an area of 32000 km2. This area is not protected meaning it’s not a game park or nature preserve.
Flip has collared a high number of lions and downloads their tracking info every night via his solar-powered communications systems in his Land Cruiser vehicle/office/home. Local herdsmen are now able hit the site every morning via their cellphones to see where the lions are so they know where they can graze their cattle safely.
And the lions are flourishing! According to the Desert Lion Conservation, their goal is to help local governments and tourism companies develop policies and projects that benefit both desert lions (and their habitats) and local economies. The hope is that by consulting communities and bringing them into wildlife management decisions, they can create win-win situations for all parties.
By Patricia Stone, freelance travel writer and consultant
Acknowledgements: thank you to Conservancy Safaris Namibia, www.kcs-namibia.com.na for hosting our safari, and introducing us to Dr. Flip Stander. Please note quotes, excerpts, and some photo credits from The Desert Lion Conservation Project
If you are interested in reading more about Namibia, click on these other articles:
- Namibia Breathes Beauty
- 6 Insights: Conservation Breakthrough in Namibia
- Children in the Wilderness
- Hiking Paradise at Fish River Canyon
- Namibia’s Erindi Private Game Reserve
- A Photographer’s Dream: Sossusvlei
- Namibia’s Olive Exclusive
- The Kalahari, Soul of the World
- This is Africa. This is Namibia. Welcome Home!
If you want to be entertained by some videos during our travels in Namibia, click on YouTube Global Adventuress to watch baby elephants in the Huab or the staff at Kulala Desert Lodge welcome guests.