Stephanie M. Dloniak

Writing about science, nature, and adventure for children and adults.




Sad news from the front lines of the lion conservation world: ... See MoreSee Less

We are deeply saddened to bring you the tragic news that, on World Lion Day, we’ve lost another three of the Musketeers… Many people have worked so hard over the last four months to get systems in place to address the conflict between the Musketeers and the rural villages. What needs to be mentioned is that the majority of the local community members, especially those of Tomakas village that were most affected by the Musketeers, have in fact shown tremendous patience and worked alongside lion researcher Dr Philip Stander to try and mitigate this conflict with the Musketeers. Inevitably, man and nature compete for resources and space. On the fringes of the desert there is just enough grassland for rural farmers to keep some livestock. It is far from easy for these farmers to live side by side with lions. They form a threat to their livelihood on a daily basis. And as farmers have the right to protect their livelihood, this ultimately results in losses - from both sides… We lost the first of the ‘Five Musketeers’ a few months ago when he was shot due to an incident at a rural cattle-post. Despite this traumatic event, the four remaining males kept coming back to the area, perhaps to look for their dead brother, perhaps to continue their successful hunting on giraffe that populate this area, or perhaps for the livestock that sometimes roams freely at night and makes for easy prey. For a while Philip was hopeful that the remaining four males would move on and leave the area, and everyone, including the local community members, seemed willing to give them that chance. But when the males caused more livestock losses, everyone realized something had to be done to protect both the people and the lions before it would be too late. The Musketeers had no future here... Then, just as the complex decision had been made by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to relocate the four male lions to the world-renowned Skeleton Coast Park where they would have a future, tragedy struck again… This major translocation was just days away from happening, as we were just waiting for the three males to reconnect with their brother who had been elsewhere. But they never got the chance to get together again. The three male lions ventured close to another cattle-post and were poisoned. Xpl-93, known as “Tullamore”, is now the last remaining Musketeer. He was relocated to the Skeleton Coast last night, where he will be given the chance to live a safe and formidable life. May he find a pride of lionesses there and keep the legacy of the famous Musketeers going… We hope that this tragic event will not overshadow what all the people on the ground (on government level included) have achieved so far. As devastating as this day is, we must use the death of these Musketeers as a catalyst to get going with a crucial action plan to keep lions and people safe… The Musketeers were part of an invaluable Pilot Project for human-wildlife conflict, which forms part of a new initiative for which several organizations have joined forces. Standing together, we aim to make a real and actual difference with pro-active management and actions, by launching well-trained rapid response teams to mitigate these unavoidable human-wildlife conflict situations. Especially on World Lion day, we hope that this is a wake-up call for all people, that us humans need to stand together to help not only the lions, but those living with lions. We encroach this planet, we’re all responsible… We all have a right to live, whether it’s in Amsterdam, New York, Windhoek or in a small village deep in the Namib Desert. So it comes down to us finding ways to avoid this kind of conflict. The harsh reality is, it will never go away. So we need to keep developing, through trial and error, effective systems to make sure that people can continue to live side by side with wildlife… If you would like to help or be involved, visit

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I am an American biologist slowly morphing into a science-nature-adventure writer. I am ultimately interested in our relationships with the natural world, and I mainly write features about wildlife research and conservation, the environment, and travel in wild (and some not-so-wild) places.

I was born and raised in the small town of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Titusville’s main claim to fame is the world’s first oil well, drilled by Colonel Edwin L. Drake in 1859. Ida Tarbell, a muckraker of note, also called Titusville home for a number of years.

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