Endangered Namibian 'desert lion' shot dead - Conservationists

Windhoek - One of a group of five well-known desert-adapted lions in northwestern Namibia has been shot dead, likely by a disgruntled farmer, conservation groups say.

Harry died of a bullet to the chest on Sunday morning, the Desert Lion Conservation group said on its website.

Harry was one of the "Five Musketeers", a group of brothers who together roam the harsh remote areas of northwestern Namibia.

With thicker coats and an ability to survive for much longer periods without water than other lions, desert lions are a famed but endangered group. Farmers readily hunt and poison them because they prey on cattle and livestock. Last year there were reported to be only 150 desert lions left.  

Two other "musketeers" - Adolf and Ben - were wounded in the weekend incident, said Desert Lion Conservation. A bullet appears to have passed through Ben's stomach.

Tense situation 

Exactly what happened remains unclear.

Desert Lion Conservation - which regularly posts information on the group's movement -said it was a case of "human-lion conflict" that occurred after the lions moved past a cattle post around 12km from Tomakas village.

The group said there was a "tense situation" on the ground. Conservationists and local safari operators have been trying to help farmers to co-exist with the lions by working on strategies to deter the predators coming near the farmers' kraals and grazing areas.

Fire crackers and flashing lights are used if the lions are seen or known to be advancing (the "musketeers" are all collared). Sometimes those trying to protect the lions will help villagers construct cattle enclosures and even return livestock that have strayed and are in danger of being eaten.

News of Harry's death is spreading fast on social media.

Facebook group Namibian Lions Killed in HWC [Human Wildlife Conflict] posted: "Maybe now is a good time to accept that properly orchestrated HWC management is direly needed."

The Five Musketeers are the subject of a documentary called Vanishing Kings.

Watch the YouTube clip below.

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