Successful lion management workshop held at Ekuthuleni Lodge

The primary management objective of Welgevonden is to facilitate acceptable short-term game viewing without compromising long-term biodiversity. To achieve this objective, it has been necessary for Welgevonden management to embark on a lion control programme to remove lions in order to reduce predation pressure on the prey population as well as to enable the introduction of new genes.

Despite lion management being a requirement on small reserves in general and despite confidence in the approach adopted, it was decided to host an informal workshop to subject the Welgevonden approach to scientific and management peer review and to interrogate options and the risk and benefits associated with each of these. Furthermore, since lion management on confined reserves is a ubiquitous problem, it was felt that such a workshop would be a valuable mechanism to share and collate knowledge and experience, to open channels of communication and perhaps provide some pointers towards alternative solutions with application across the entire industry.

The workshop was attended by several scientists and managers from other reserves, as well as representatives from SANParks and Northwest Parks. The outcome of the workshop can be summarized as follows:

  • The management actions taken on Welgevonden up to now are not inappropriate and comply with best industry practice;
  • Lions on small reserves contribute very little to lion conservation and their purpose is primarily to satisfy tourism requirements;
  • A laissez-faire approach to lion management is not an option for small, confined reserves, and intervention is unavoidable to prevent heavy impacts on prey as well as to prevent inbreeding;
  • There is no place for sentiment when it comes to lion management, especially not towards specific individuals;
  • The management objectives for small reserves need to be clearly stated and then targeted;
  • Management strategies to optimize habitat conditions for prey species should be implemented.
  • Reducing lion numbers on Welgevonden is a priority to attempt to get the prey population out of the predator pit;

The workshop was a huge success and several people attending expressed their interest in making it an annual workshop to discuss new ideas. A huge thank you to Ekuthuleni and Tswene Lodges for hosting the workshop and making accommodation available free of charge.