Can Namibia’s desert lions survive humanity?

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The lions of the Namib Desert survive against incredible odds, but can they survive trophy hunting, human-wildlife conflict and climate change?

Desert lions aren’t a distinct species or even a subspecies, but they are different. Drop a plains lion into the Namib Desert — where it may rain only 5 millimeters a year — and watch it perish.

According to Izak Smit, who runs the local NGO, Desert Lions Human Relations Aid (DeLHRA), the desert lions of Namibia are able to go long periods of time without water, getting most of their moisture from the blood of their kills. They are leaner and woolier (due to frigid nights). And they behave distinctly than other lions: prides are smaller, they have bigger home ranges and travel further and there is no infanticide — a common practice among plains lions.

Related: Cecil’s legacy: could the death of one lion start a conservation movement?

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