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Desert lion, Gretzky (XPL 99) in Namibia
Gretzky, XPL 99 © Inki Mandt
WARNING: CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGE

NAMIBIA: Gretzky (XPL 99) the iconic Huab River male desert-adapted lion, who sired and established the Ugab Pride has been shot and killed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) at De Rust farm in Ugabriver.  According to sources, on Monday evening (11th June) he entered a kraal and killed about 25 goats and sheep at de Rust. This was the first known conflict incident he was involved in.

The lion was collared and it is said that his death could have been prevented if the early warning system had been installed in areas where problems with lions have occurred repeatedly. Apparently his skin, and most likely his bones, will be sold on MET’s behalf.

Lion being skinned at de Rust farm in Namibia, graphic content
Gretsky, XPL 99, being skinned at De Rust Farm © Izak Smit

The following is a statement by Izak Smit (Chairman and founder-member of Desert Lions Human Relations Aid Namibia) regarding Gretsky’s death:

“Unbeknown to us, the MET went to De Rust Farm on Friday. Since Gretzky, XPL 99, seemed to have moved off to the East after we successfully drove him off from the kraals at De Rust Thursday night, we did not envisage that he would return so soon.

On Saturday the news reached us that Gretzky had been shot by the MET and that the skin would be sold. We returned to De Rust to find a skinned carcass of the lion. It became clear that he was in a poor condition and emaciated. This explained his relentless returns to the kraals and his breaching of the poorly maintained and dilapidated kraal where he killed about 25 sheep and goats of Mama Rosa on Monday evening. There were two donkeys on the loose (not kraaled despite the imminent threat) this time at the De Rust farm which attracted the lion. He made a few attempts at the kraal and eventually killed a donkey and as a result was shot not far from the farmhouses. Since he qualifies as a problem-causing animal, the MET and farmers acted within the law by killing it.

The question however remains whether a translocation could not have spared his life and defused the conflict situation. Given the lion’s poor condition he would most probably not have attempted the long way back from the Huab River to the Ugab if he would’ve been relocated back to the Huab. Given the grossly skewed gender ratio of male to female lions, favouring female numbers, and the facts published by the researcher highlighting the fact that 6 of 9 prides are without a resident male (counting Gretzky now upped to 7 prides), clearly a more conservation friendly approach would have been desirable. Too often the problem is dealt with through the barrel of a gun and one wonders if a recommendation was at all seeked from the research or whether any form of impact study to determine the sustainability of such culling was done. Given the fact that no recent statistics or census in this regard is known it seems irresponsible to just kill these animals randomly.

Namibia boasts internationally to have the largest number of free roaming lions in the world and derives revenue and earns admiration for it but seem to not take the conservation of these animals seriously enough. The so-called early warning and response system remains an empty promise.

This is clear as the Ugab lions have already been collared in January, but clearly no such warning or support has been given to the De Rust farmers despite the fact that Gretzky’s collar regularly transmits his position. Another international outcry can be expected by concerned international communities and tourists which could and should have been avoided in our opinion.”

Lion collar
The collar that could have saved Gretzky’s life and should have been utilised for early warning purposes © Izak Smit
Shenton Safaris
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A collection of current affairs articles and press releases from third party sources.