Humans, livestock, and lions in northwest Namibia
Humans, livestock, and lions have inhabited shared landscapes in northwest Namibia for hundreds of years. Currently, human-lion conflict (HLC) threatens pastoral livelihoods and the viability of the region's desert-adapted lion population. In this dissertation I examine the history of human-livestock-lion relationships in the region. The goal is to create historically-informed solutions to HLC that are locally-inclusive. Drawing on archival, scientific, and governmental material, as well as social surveys and oral histories that I have performed, this is the first time that the disparate sources on human-livestock-lion relationships in northwest Namibia have been unified. While scholars of African environments have problematized interpretations of Africa's environmental colonial and postcolonial past, this is the first work to examine human-predator relationships as a fulcrum for understanding colonial and postcolonial politics and the current challenges of conserving African lions. As a document informing ongoing conservation interventions, this is the first attempt to explicitly frame applied lion conservation activities within historical contexts, critically assessing livestock as mediators of human-lion interactions. I begin by showing how the precolonial and early-colonial experience of the region's ovaHerero people was mediated through the control of livestock. I then examine how colonial era policies remade, and were aided by, the geography of predators. The effects of apartheid on the region's wildlife showcase some of the important legacies of colonial-era policies. I then reveal the long history of human-lion interactions with particular emphasis on the transformative role of livestock. I then focus on the behavior and ecology of the desert-adapted lions, highlighting important contrasts with other lion populations and emphasizing how recent monitoring induced a paradigm shift. Finally, I center ongoing HLC within communal rangelands as experienced by pastoralists and suggest one way of reframing HLC that is founded in local perspectives.