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Gobabeb Research & Training Centre

TRACKING CATTLE IN THE DESERT

The Japanese Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), together with their Namibian Joint Venture partnerReptile Mineral Resources & Exploration (Pty) Ltd (RMR), donated twelve Global Positioning System (GPS) collars of approximately N$74,000 in value to Gobabeb Research & Training Centre on the 7th of March. The collars will be used

by a Namibian student at Gobabeb, Mr Eric Shiningayamwe, to track the behaviour and movement of cattle in the Namib Desert. The study will form part of Eric's research towards a Masters degree in Rangeland Management at the University of Namibia.

The Namib Desert is a hyper-arid desert where annual rainfall averages less than 25 mm and temperatures often exceeds 40°C. The Namib was almost entirely uninhabited by humans, but the Topnaar Nama (≠Aoni) people have lived and farmed with livestock in this harsh environment for centuries. Even though grass and grazing for cattle and small stock is almost completely absent, the Topnaar farmers of the Lower Kuiseb know that livestock do well when they feed on the nutritious pods of the ana (Faidherbia albida) and camelthorn (Acacia erioloba) trees. Knowledge from the Namib may therefore provide guidance to other livestock farmers in Namibia how to cope with climate change. Eric’s study will examine the daily movement and activities of desert cattle in relation to the vegetation and local conditions of the Lower Kuiseb River, which may elaborate specifically on animal feeding habits, definitive information about predators and competition with wildlife, and animal responses to extreme heat and weather.

A complementary study on how much pods are produced by ana and camelthorn trees is being carried out by Ms Dortea Hamukoto, a recent UNAM graduate and intern at Gobabeb, as part of an assessment of the carrying capacity of our rangelands. Most Namibian farmers know how important pods are for their livestock, but there are very little information on how much pods are produced by trees and how rainfall affects pod production. Understanding how cattle utilize marginal rangelands as in the Namib Desert, and how much fodder is available, provides fundamental knowledge in animal behaviour and land resource utilization, which will form a national baseline for providing better advice to farmers regarding cattle management and rangeland management in different parts of the country

Quote by Dr. Katrin Kärner of Reptile Mineral Resources and Exploration (Pty) Ltd: "As operators in the Namib-Naukluft National Park we are committed to a sustainable environment in the Park. As such, we are pleased to support the Cattle Tracking Project, initiated by Gobabeb, which will greatly assist in achieving this objective. We are also delighted to see a dedicated and motivated young Namibian taking on this research and wish Eric all the best and success."

RMR is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ASX and NSX-listed Deep Yellow Ltd, and manages the Nova Joint Venture (JV) on behalf of its JV partners Nova Energy (Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Sixzone Investments (Pty) Ltd. JOGMEC, the minerals exploration arm of the Japanese government, is currently funding the exploration activities of the Nova JV and as such can earn a 39.5% interest by spending ca. N$42 million (A$4.5 million) within four years. The Nova JV is prospecting for both alaskite type (e.g., as at Rössing and Husab mines) and paleochannel-related calcrete type (e.g. at Langer Heinrich) uranium deposits on two exploration leases (EPL3669 and EPL3670) located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park.

The Nova JV is supporting the cattle tracking project through its social responsibility programme, contributing to a sustainable environment in the Park as well as capacity building and national development through this donation.

Quote by Mr Eric Shiningayamwe, Rangeland Management Masters student at Gobabeb "I was astounded by how fat the cattle in the Namib are when there is no grass. I believe that my research will help all Namibian farmers by being able to advise them better on where their cattle go, when they like feed, rest or walk, and why they go to specific areas. Such knowledge will make farming in Namibia more profitable and better oriented to conserving our rangelands."

Gobabeb is situated adjacent to the red dunes of the Namib Sand Sea world heritage site, on the Kuiseb River in the Namib-Naukluft Park, where it is a catalyst for gathering, understanding and sharing knowledge of the Namib Desert and arid environments. The Gobabeb Research and Training Centre offers local and international scientists the opportunity to work in one of the foremost dryland research centers of the world. One such scholar is Mr Eric Shiningayamwe, who is supported in his studies by the National Commission on Research Science & Technology (NCRST), Dartmouth College of the USA, and Gobabeb. In consultation with Chief Seth Kooitjie and in collaboration with the Topnaar community, the GPS-enabled collars will be attached to free roaming cattle that are owned by traditional farmers along the lower Kuiseb River.

Quote by Dr Gillian Maggs-Kölling, Executive Director at Gobabeb "The collars will record the position, temperature, and posture of cows every ten minutes, from which Eric can determine the activity, rangeland preferences, foraging range and response to climate by cattle in one of the most extreme rangelands of the world. Through the deployment of such cutting-edge precision agriculture techniques, the knowledge that Eric will develop will be to the benefit of all Namibian farmers."

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