Albertina Nakale Ongava Despite ever-increasing threats to some of the rarest animals on the planet, Ongava Game Reserve in the Kunene Region has recorded an increase in its lion population due to successful conservation efforts. Recently there have been worrisome incidences of lion poisoning in Kunene. Recently six lions from Etosha National Park were alleged to have attacked and killed livestock in the bordering Omusati Region, which prompted communal farmers to take the law into their own hands and gun down the big cats. However, Ongava Game Reserve is proud to own such predators, as they are aware that conserving these big cats brings in a good number of tourists, which helps boost the Namibian economy. Ongava Game Reserve operations manager Stuart Crawford over the weekend said the game sanctuary is one of the few places where one gets free roaming lions on private land. He revealed the lion population has since grown in Ongava, which currently stands at between 20 to 30 free roaming lions. Even though there have been incidences of lions been gunned down in Namibia, Crawford said they electrified their fence to avoid human-wildlife conflict. He said Ongava has not experienced any incidences of guests or its employees being attacked by wildlife, adding that they don’t allow anyone to walk to and from their room unescorted by an armed guide. Ongava is the product of unproductive farmland being turned into a conservation area for Namibia’s wildlife. It is a 30,000-hectare conservancy and offers the visitor an exclusive experience close to one of the best national parks in the world. It is privately owned and the reserve dedicates itself to the conservation of wildlife and the natural surroundings. The reserve shares a common boundary with Etosha National Park, which makes it a unique location for visitors. The reserve is also well known for research projects and gathering valuable information concerning wildlife. Crawford said they have an active well-trained anti-poaching team in the field day and night. “We have a good working relationship with the ministry of environment and teams from Etosha National Park.” In 1993 the Ongava owners first bought a white rhino from Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, while other animal species such as black-faced impala, springbok, eland, red wildebeest and elephant were brought in from the Waterberg Plateau. “The arrival of the white rhino was very important to us as you can see on our badge – all have a picture of rhino, and our name Ongava, which means rhino in Otjiherero,” Crawford noted. Crawford said they have not experienced any rhino poaching, unlike neighbouring Etosha, which has fallen victim over the years. Ongava is also a custodian of the black rhino on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. He said most employees on the reserve have become like family, which makes it easy to protect wildlife. “We talk to our staff about rhino poaching. Everybody works together as a team. Everyone has a radio for communication. We get posters from the ministry to create awareness. We have families working for us, and each in different camps, so it’s really a family community. We put trust in the family so if you bring a person to us who wants a job, then we trust you are bringing a person we can trust,” he maintained. According to him, their concept has always been non-consumptive sustainable utulisation. “We want guests to come to Ongava and take photographs of our wildlife and be exposed to white and black rhino, elephant, lion on our property and all the general game. We want them to enjoy their safari and pay for their privilege because it’s an exclusive game reserve. We then use that money to take care of the animals and fund our anti-poaching efforts.” All the water available at Ongava is pumped – there are no natural springs. The game reserve has 14 waterholes that are well located for animals, which reduces water competition. He said Ongava has not recorded any animal fatalities due to starvation because they do not overstock animals and they have enough feed. The Hai//om community who live in Etosha and some of them employed by Ongava too are being educated on rhino poaching. He mentioned drought as one of the major problems in managing rhino, once the grass and bush diminish. Crawford said the research team is focused on the red-billed quellias – their drinking patterns to determine how many manage to have access to drinking water since they come to waterholes in their thousands. Ongava has since 2015 operated independently from a safari tourism company called Wilderness Safaris, after their contract ended. Ongava Game Reserve has four accommodation sections, namely Little Ongava, Ongava Lodge, Ongava Tented Camp and Andersson’s Camp.
New Era Reporter
2017-08-22 11:21:06 1 years ago