Namibia's desert lions attack humans because they are starving due to drought

NAMIBIA, AFRICA - NEWS AND VIEWS: Starving desert lions are attacking humans in Namibia because a prolonged drought has killed off all their prey animals. Tourists have been warned about the danger that Namibia's desert lions posed to them and this small population of lions is dwindling as they battle starvation. Is this an example of global warming and climate change?

Campers have been attacked in their tent. One starving lion pounced on a 72-year-old man the previous day. The man, Denker, said that he was settling down with his wife at a camp in the north west when they spotted what they initially thought was a hyena but when the animal approached it emitted a chilling lion growl. 

Namibia's desert lions
Namibia's desert lions. Photo: Twitter.

They screamed and scared it away but the lion returned. It charged at the tent's window with the same low growl and crashed hard against the tent, dislodging the tent pole and peg and tilting the tent inwards towards them. The man fired a shot from his revolver which scared the lion off allowing them time to find safety.

Sadly, when they returned to their camp at Brandenburg, Namibia's highest mountain they found the gaunt lion chewing their tent canvas because of acute starvation. The same male lion is believed to have targeted the tour guide, David Ward, and his father a few miles away. They fought the lion off but Ward's 72-year-old father needed 20 stitches to his leg. The ribs and backbone of the lion were visible. The guide said that lions are going crazy with starvation.

Their plight is evidenced by these very rare attacks on humans and there is real concern that the lack of food and water in the desert habitat will lead to similar incidents. There must be concern, too, about their survival.

A spokesperson for the country's ministry of environment and tourism, Romeo Muyunda, said that: "Such behaviour is driven by sheer desperation because the animals have nothing to eat. We don't want anything happening to our tourists."

Namibia's desert lions attack a giraffe
Namibia's desert lions attack a giraffe. Picture in public domain.

The lion mentioned and three other malnourished cats were tracked and relocated to a private farm where there is plenty of prey animals such as antelopes. They will stay there until their condition has improved, the spokesperson said.

Sadly, two emaciated desert lions had to be euthanised because they were to weak to be saved.

The desert lions of Namibia live in what is described as the most "unforgiving patch of southern Africa" but they have adapted to the environment and survived. They are not a distinct subspecies but standard African lions.

They are leaner than average and travel longer distances in hunting for food and they've adapted to relying on the water content of their prey animals as a substitute for drinking water much like the diminutive sand cat. The sand cat is the only true desert cat.

Namibia's desert lions have been seen hunting seabirds and small seals on Namibia's Skeleton Coast. They are the only lions targeting sea life. It is believed that there are a mere 120 of these lions left and they have become a popular tourist attraction.

Farmers are affected because the lions have had to turn to livestock as a substitute for their normal prey animals.

News media: The Times.

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