Success Story: Keitumetse Ngaka - SAVE Lion Project Coordinator
It may sound unbelievable: SAVE Lion Project Coordinator Keitumetse Ngaka had never seen lions before his studies. In fact, the lion population in Botswana has plummeted dramatically: by 43% in the last 21 years.
Nevertheless, the country is one of the most lion-rich nations on earth. This was confirmed by the Oxford WildCRU department’s Botswana Lion Corridor Project, which SAVE supported financially for three years: Southern Africa still has one of the largest geographically contiguous lion populations.
However, it was not clear from the beginning that Keitumetse would one day be so committed to the lion population. First, he studied “Natural Resource Management” at the University of Botswana in Maun, which in Botswana includes wildlife first and foremost.
In a country where there is no student support available and the vast majority of people do not have wealthy parents, students are almost always dependent on supporters.
In the case of Keitumetse, this was the Kalahari Research and Conservation (KRC). The young student had the opportunity to look over the lion researchers’ shoulders as they worked. Later, when it came to his own Master’s thesis, the paths of Keitumetse and Lars Gorschlüter crossed.
The SAVE Foundation Board recognised the talent of the budding lion researcher and supported his Master’s thesis as the main sponsor. This enabled the young student to take part in SAVE’s Capacity Development Programme. This is a component of Education for Conservation (E4C) and aims to train local people to become advocates for species conservation in their country.
“He was always a friendly person with whom I could have open and animated discussions,” Keitumetse recalls today. “We felt like brothers”.
Since then, Keitumetse felt he wanted to give something back to SAVE: to the foundation that made his degree possible.
So when he read the ad that SAVE was looking for a coordinator for the lion project in Quqao, the matter was clear: this was exactly what he was looking for. He applied, got the job and since then has been committed to what has always been close to his heart: protecting the lions in his home country.
SAVE is happy to have found such a dedicated project leader for SAVE Lions – Living with Lions – since the end of 2021.
For Lars Gorschlüter, the development of Keitumetse from student to a lion project leader is proof that his capacity development programme works. SAVE has been supporting him for ten years now, as well as another 18 young researchers whom the foundation supports with scholarships for their Master’s or PhD thesis: on African wild dogs, wildebeests or lions, for example.
“We achieve the best successes when we involve the local population with all their knowledge in our species conservation projects,” says the founder of the foundation.