30 Aug 2016. Translocation of Xpl-93. The human-lion conflict problems that dominated activities during most of 2016 at Tomakas and along the Gomatum River has for the moment been solved. This was mainly due to the shooting of Xpl-89 on 12 Jun 2016 and the poisoning of Xpl-90, Xpl-91 & Xpl-92 on 8 Aug 2016. The translocation of Xpl-93, the last survivor of the “Five Musketeers”, on 9 Aug 2016 was a necessary action under the circumstances. As expected, Xpl-93 walked back to the Okongwe area where he and his brothers have lived for the past year. Over a 20-day period Xpl-93 walked 196.9 km to reconnect with the Okongwe lioness at the Okongwe waterhole on 29 Aug 2016. Notwithstanding, the translocation may still prove to have been valuable as it broke the pattern of activities at that time and Xpl-93 may come to terms with the loss of his brothers and attach himself to the Okongwe lionesses to become the Okongwe Pride male.
28/9 Aug 2016. Okongwe. The last survivor of the “Five Musketeers”, Xpl-93, reached Okongwe waterhole earlier this morning and met-up with the Okongwe lionesses. Their behavior suggests that they were “pleased” to see him – they approached the male with affectionate head rubbing and one of the lionesses Xpl-104 was observed mating with him.
27 Aug 2016. Okongwe South. Xpl-93 continued moving northwards towards Okongwe. During the night he walked 40.5 km and stopped to rest during the heat of the day in a narrow wash 8.5 km south of Okongwe waterhole. The four lionesses of the Okongwe Pride are currently at Okongwe waterhole where they killed an adult Hartmann’s zebra.
26 Aug 2016. Hoanib River. The male lion Xpl-93 spent three days in the Mudorib River moving short distances per day and feeding on an Oryx kill. He then walked northwards along the mountain ridges to the Hoanib River where he drank at the President’s waterhole.
25 Aug 2016. Snake Eagle. The adult male Xpl-93 is still in the Mudorib River where he is feeding on the remains of an Oryx kill. Numerous tourists traveling to the Hoanib River were fortunate to observe and photograph the lion. Wilderness Safaris found an injured Black-chested Snake Eagle in the lower Hoanib River. With advice & guidance from NARREC an effort is underway to treat the bird and hopefully release it again.
23/24 Aug 2016. Kunene Regional Council. The Desert Lion Project attended a meeting called by the Regional Councillor of the Sesfontein Constituency, the Governor of the Kunene Region and the traditional leaders on the recent incidents of human-lion conflict in the Gomatum area. The Desert Lion Project and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism came under attack as the Meeting expressed their disapproval and anger at the increased number of human-lion conflict incidents and the management/conservation actions.
17-22 Aug 2016. Xpl-93 “Tue-la-mort”. His sponsors named Xpl-93 “Tullamore” after an Irish whiskey. The Desert Lion Project was informed recently that in French it could be pronounced as “Tue-la-mort”, which means, “to beat death”. After the translocation of Xpl-93 from Tomakas to the Uniab Delta on 9 Aug 2016, the sole survivor of the “Five Musketeers” remained in the lower Uniab River for eight days (see map below – numbers indicate sequential days). An interaction with the Obab pride male Xpl-74 on day 8/9 presumably caused Xpl-93 to vacate the area and move northwards to Hunkap spring. Once Xpl-93 reach the Hunkap area he was clearly heading back to his current home range area at Okongwe/Tomakas. This development is sadly to be expected since Xpl-93 is not aware that his brothers (the “Musketeers”) are dead and he will be searching for them.
15-16 Aug 2016. Xpl-93 Update-2. The adult male lion Xpl-93 has thus far responded well to the translocation by remaining in the Uniab Delta area. The field vehicle has been plagued by flat tires that were damaged in the Tomakas Mountains and during the translocation of Xpl-93.
13-14 Aug 2016. Xpl-93 Update. There is a high probability that the male lion Xpl-93 will walk back to Tomakas in search of his missing brothers that were poisoned on 9 Aug 2016 (see below). It is therefore encouraging that he is still at the Uniab Delta.
12 Aug 2016. Recovered. The adult male Xpl-93 made a full recovery from the prolonged immobilisation during the translocation from Tomakas. He has been feeding on the Oryx carcass and has started exploring the area around the Uniab Delta.
11 Aug 2016. Uniab Delta. The last survivor of the “Five Musketeers”, Xpl-93 also known as “Tullamore”, has recovered from the ordeal of translocating him to the Uniab Delta (photos below). The lion was kept sedated for 14.5 hrs and transported in the back of the research vehicle for 279 km from Tomakas to the mouth of the Uniab River. He is currently feeding on an Oryx carcass and his movements will be monitored closely. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism must be commended for their leading role in the operation and thanks also go to Namibia Wildlife Resorts and Wilderness Safaris for their support. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Namibian Police Force have launched a detailed investigation into the killing of the three males (Xpl-90, Xpl-91 & Xpl-92) 12 km north of Tomakas. The developments over the past few days may generate reactions in the published press and on social media. The Desert Lion Project would like to: a) state that the problems of human-lion conflict are complex and b) call on everyone using the information presented on this website to remain objective. The daily movements of Xpl-93 will now be posted under “Obab Lionesses”.
10 Aug 2016. Tragedy. On 6 Aug 2016 the Ministry of Environment & Tourism approved the translocation of the four “Musketeers” from Tomakas to the Uniab Delta as a last-resort effort to solve the on-going human-lion conflict. Several parties participated with the planning of this operation: an aircraft was secured to transport the lions from Purros to Terrace Bay, vehicles were gathered to take the lions from Tomakas to Purros and finally from Terrace Bay to the Uniab Delta as we waited for the three males to return from the mountains and reconnect with Xpl-93.
However, the three males encountered a new and previously unknown cattle post of semi-nomadic pastoralists. The lions killed a donkey and the people (previously from Omiriu and then Ondudupi) retaliated by poisoning the lions. The carcasses and the satellite collars of the lions were then burnt. With this tragic development a difficult decision had to be made about the fate of the lone survivor. With the Ministry of Environment & Tourism we darted Xpl-93, loaded him in the Desert Lion Project Land Cruiser and started the long journey to the Uniab Delta. The convoy of three vehicles struggled through the Floodplain and dunes that were covered in thick fog. We finally reached the mouth of the Uniab River at 05h25 and found a narrow wash with some protection to off-load Xpl-93 (photos below).
9 Aug 2016. Concern. The three adult male lions (“Musketeers”) that moved 12 km into the mountains north of Tomakas suddenly stopped moving and their satellite collars went off-line yesterday morning. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Namibian Police Force this development will be investigated. The satellite collar of Xpl-93 (the fourth member of the “Musketeers”) has been giving intermittent readings. The lion was immobilised last night and a new collar was fitted (photos below).
7/8 Aug 2016. Still Searching. The adult male lion Xpl-93 has covered a vast area in search of his three brothers (the “Musketeers”). They are currently still in the mountains 15 km north of Tomakas.
6 Aug 2016. Searching. The adult male lion Xpl-93 failed to meet up with his brothers during the night. He moved north to Otjizeka spring and then along the Gomatum River to Tomakas and missed the other three “Musketeers” that are currently in the mountains 15 km north of Tomakas.
5 Aug 2016. Xpl-93. The adult male lion Xpl-93 left his brothers and moved to Okongwe Waterhole. The remaining three “Musketeers” yet again approached Tomakas village between 02h00 and 03h00 this morning. They nonetheless responded immediately to a display of flashing lights/fireworks and moved off in an easterly direction along the Gomatum River.
4 Aug 2016. Tension at Tomakas. During the past two nights the male lions approached the Tomakas village and the coral with livestock. On both occasions the lights and activities deterred them, but tensions are rising at Tomakas as the problem escalates.
3 Aug 2016. Tomakas Situation. The human-lion conflict situation at Tomakas and the Gomatum River has become unmanageable. A few days ago a man encountered the four adult males (the “Musketeers”) in a narrow wash 3.5 km north of Tomakas whilst riding on donkey. The man fled into the mountains and walked to Tomakas. The incident was investigated and it was confirmed that the lions killed the donkey. They dragged and left the saddle under a tree (photo: below middle). The saddle was returned to its owner. Thereafter, on 2 Aug 2016, the four males moved past Tomakas and killed two goats. The people of Tomakas have been patient and tolerant of the lions disrupting their lives, but they cannot continue living under these conditions. Removing the lions from the area is necessary. The lions have expanded their range into an area of human settlement that is not suitable lion habitat. Our efforts to deter and cause the lions to vacate the area have failed. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism are being consulted to find an amicable solution.
2 Aug 2016. Hoaruseb. Images downloaded from a camera-trap in the lower Hoaruseb Gorge revealed no evidence of lion movements in the Hoaruseb River during the past eight months. Dramatic photographs were recorded of a flash flood on 3 Feb 2016 (photos: below right). The four male lions (“Musketeers”) moved back to Tomakas.
31 Jul 2016. Coastal Activities. The injured brown hyaena (Xhb-20) is recovering from his injuries and was observed interacting with other hyaenas near the seal colony (photo: top left). Whales were spotted on four separate occasions along the coastline (photo: below right). The four adult male lions (“Musketeers”) moved along the Gomatum River past Tomakas where they were hunting giraffes.
30 Jul 2016. Brown Hyaena Incident. A report of a badly injured brown hyaena at Mowe Bay was investigated. The hyaena was found at the barracks of the Namibian Police Force (photo: top left) and was in a very poor condition. With assistance from the Police and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism the hyaena was immobilised and the injuries to his head and neck were treated. The hyaena (Xhb-20) is recovering from the injuries sustained from fighting with other brown hyaenas that visit the seal colony at Mowe Bay (photo: bottom) and possibly also a collision with a vehicle on the main road.
28/29 Jul 2016. Gomatum. During the past few days the four adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved past Tomakas on two occasions without approaching the village. They remained in the Gomatum River and moved to Otjizeka spring where they met with the Okongwe lioness Xpl-104 (photo: bottom left).
27 Jul 2016. LED Lights. Specially designed LED lights that are manufactured locally in Swakopmund have been fitted to the perimeter of the corrals at Tomakas. Each unit contains a battery, a small solar panel, a light censor and random flashing LED lights (white, red, blue & green) that activate after sunset. These LED lights will be tested during the next few months.
24-26 Jul 2016. Return to Tomakas. After spending two nights in the Hoanib River the four adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved northwards along the Obias River and then to the Okongwe waterhole where they spent the day. Thereafter they returned to the Tomakas area. They avoided the Tomakas village and moved in an easterly direction to Okomaruru (see map below).
22/23 Jul 2016. Hoanib River. The four adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) remained in the Hoanib River for the next two days following their 40 km walk from the Giribis plains on 21 Jul 2016. The map below indicates the positions of the seven calling stations (S1 – S7) and the route taken by the lions (red line). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (Pollen & Uanee), IRDNC and Rodney Tjavara (photo: top right) for their roles in a successful operation.
21 Jul 2016. Hoodwinked. The four adult males (the “Musketeers”) moved to the northern edge of the Giribis plains. Their position provided an ideal opportunity to lure them back to the Hoanib. With the aid of the full moon to observe them, sound playbacks of lionesses calling for their cubs were used to attract the male lions. They responded immediately to the first playback and moved towards the sound. The second playback further south had the same response. Throughout the night the process was repeated as they were lured across the Giribis plains, then into the Obias River, through the mountains, and eventually to the Hoanib. The males reached the Hoanib River at 05h30 this morning (photo: bottom right). They appeared rather tired this morning after being tricked into walking 38.9 km. The lions will be kept under close observation.
20 Jul 2016. Game of Patience. During the past five months the use of fireworks and bright flashing lights to deter lions from approaching settlements with livestock were tested and developed as a functional method to manage incidents of human-lion conflict. The behaviour of the lions was observed, recorded and incorporated to ensure that they form a clear association between the fireworks and human settlements with livestock. Last night provided an ideal opportunity to further this process. Although the people of Ondudupi removed most of the remains of the dead cow, a few scraps were left behind in case the lions decide to return. At sunset the lions came out of the mountains and headed for the carcass (photo: top left), which they reached at 19h30. A short burst of fireworks caused the lions to retreat, but only to a Mopane thicket ± 200 metres away. They waited patiently for eight hours. At 04h00, when the moon settled behind the mountains and the area was covered in total darkness, they sneaked back to the carcass. As soon as they reached the carcass they were bombarded with an aggressive display of bright flashing lights and fireworks. The lions scattered and then moved 12 km into the Okongwe Mountains to the south.
19 Jul 2016. Cow. At 03h20 the four adult males approached the Ondudupi village where the cattle were inside a rudimentary corral made of Mopane branches (photo: top left). The lions responded immediately to a display of bright flashing lights / fireworks and they moved away. However, one kilometre south of the village, the lions unfortunately encountered and killed a lone cow that did not return to the corral. At dawn the lions moved to the safety of a nearby gorge.
18 Jul 2016. Tourism. The two Okongwe lionesses parted from the four adult males (the “Musketeers”) and moved into the mountains towards Okongwe. The males remained in the Gomatum valley and moved towards Tomakas. Several tourist vehicles, some with local guides from the Purros Conservancy, came out to view the lions (photo: below left).
17 Jul 2016. Brotherhood. After the fighting and aggression between the coalition of four adult males (the “Musketeers”) over the two Okongwe lionesses (see 15 Jun 2016) they displayed signs of affection that highlights the tight bond between the males (photos: top row). They were observed hunting giraffes at sunrise this morning along the Gomatum valley (photos: bottom row).
16 Jul 2016. Otjizeka. The coalition four of adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) remained together after they wondered around separately for several days (see map below). During the night they moved with the two Okongwe lionesses to Otjizeka spring.
15 Jul 2016. Lionesses. During the night the males (Xpl-90, 91 & 92) moved westwards along the Gomatum River where they met-up with their brother (Xpl-93) and two Okongwe lionesses (photo: top). One of the lionesses is in oestrous and the males were competing for an opportunity to mate with the lionesses (photos: bottom row).
14 Jul 2016. Playful. Three of the “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91 & 92) re-connected during the night and at 04h00 this morning they returned to the Gomatum River and visited the remains of the giraffe carcass of 7 Jul 2016. The fourth male (Xpl-93) has moved down towards Okongwe. During the past few days the male lions have been unusually playful (photos below).
13 Jul 2016. Fission-Fusion. The coalition of four adult males (the “Musketeers”) separated and re-joined on several occasions during the past 48 hours. This was the first recorded incident of the males exhibiting the fission-fusion grouping pattern that is typical of adult lions.
12 Jul 2016. Giraffe Carcass. Two of the adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) returned to the giraffe carcass that they killed on 7 Jul 2016. Xpl-90 & Xpl92 spent an extra two days feeding on the last remains of the carcass. They avoided both Tomakas and “Ondudupi” (the new village NW of Tomakas) and returned to the Okongwe Mountains early this morning.
11 Jul 2016. Rodney. The Omiriu village have moved to a new location 10 km northwest of Tomakas (photo: top & map). The villagers have erected a rudimentary corral with mopane & thorn branches and they continue to herd their livestock. Rodney Tjavara (see “Hero of Tomakas” News 2/3 Jun 2016) has become an important member of the Desert Lion Project (photo: bottom right). His role in managing the incidents of human-lion conflict along the Gomatum River during the past two months has been invaluable. With support from Into Nature Productions, TOSCO, Mike Lichtman, Off-Road Centre and Cymot it was possible to provide Rodney with some basic equipment (e.g. tent, uniform, solar power unit, lights, radio, camera, etc.) necessary for the work (photos: bottom left).
10 Jul 2016. Xpl-92. The wound to the right cheek of Xpl-92 “Adolf” (see News 3 Jul 2016) was inspected at close range (photo: below right). It does not appear to be a serious injury and the wound is healing well.
8-9 Jul 2016. Feeding. The four adult males (the “Musketeers”) spent the past two nights feeding on the adult male giraffe carcass. Due to a shortage in grazing the Omiriu village have moved 9 km closer to Tomakas. They are currently setting up a temporary cattle post with a rudimentary corral against the mountains on the northern edge of the Gomatum valley.
5-7 Jul 2016. Giraffes. The coalition of four adult males (the “Musketeers”) remained in the Gomatum valley (see map below). The livestock owners at Tomakas and Omiriu made concerted efforts to manage their livestock and place them in corrals at night whilst the Desert Lion Project continued to monitor the lions. Behavioural observations suggest that there are three possible reasons why the four males continue to frequent the Gomatum valley: a) to hunt giraffes, b) searching for their brother Xpl-89 that was shot at Otjizeka spring on 12 Jun 2016, and c) following the Okongwe lionesses that utilise the area. The four males killed an adult male giraffe close to Tomakas during the early morning hours on 7 Jul 2016 (map: red cross).
3 Jul 2016. Lucky Ben. Xpl-91 “Ben”, the male lion that was wounded on 12 Jun 2016 (see News 13-15 Jun 2016), was immobilised to replace his satellite collar that stopped working and to inspect the bullet wound. With the help of Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (Pollen) the people of Tomakas village, including the Headman, Oom Japie, were collected to experience the event (photos below). At closer inspection the wounds show that Xpl-91 had three bullet wounds on both sides of his body. The wounds suggest that Xpl-91 may have been shot with an automatic riffle with solid bullets that passed straight through the lower part of his stomach. The wounds are healing well and Xpl-91 is in good condition. This new information brings into question the cause of a nasty wound to the cheek of Xpl-92 “Adolf” that is not healing.
|Oom Japie (Headman) and Rodney with Xpl-91||The Tomakas people and Pollen (red shirt)||Pollen & Rodney assisting with data collection|
|Three wounds on right flank of Xpl-91||Enter/exit holes of the two lower bullet wounds||Top & bottom wounds on left flank of Xpl-91|
2 Jul 2016. Close Encounter. During the night one of the “Musketeers”, Xpl-90 “Polla”, moved westwards along the Gomatum River. He was roaring regularly and presumably looking for his dead brother Xpl-89 “Harry”. Xpl-90 rested inside a Salvadora/Mopane thicket 4 km east of Omiriu village. At 11h30 a large herd of cattle moved along the dry riverbed towards Xpl-90. At one point the cattle were ± 50 metres from the lion. The cattle were chased away before Xpl-90 could react.
1 Jul 2016. Searching for Xpl-89. The behaviour of the remaining four male lions (of the original “Five Musketeers”) during the past few days suggest that they are looking for their brother (Xpl-89 “Harry”) that was shot on 12 Jun 2016 (see News 13-15 Jun 2016). Two of the males (Xpl-90 “Polla” & Xpl-92 “Adolf”) left the rest of the group and returned to the Gomatum River in search of Xpl-89. They are visiting all the areas they frequented before the shooting of Xpl-89 and are calling out for him regularly throughout the night.
30 Jun 2016. Okongwe. Two of the remaining four “Musketeers” (Xpl-91 “Ben & Xpl-93 “Tullamore”) and several Okongwe lionesses were photographed by a camera-trap at Okongwe waterhole (photos below). The other two “Musketeers” (Xpl-90 & Xpl-92) remained in the Gomatum River where they approached the Omiriu village during the night. The lions were successfully deterred using flashing lights and fireworks.
27-29 Jun 2016. Erratic Movements. The monitoring and management of human-lion conflict along the Gomatum River during the past three days have been complicated by the unusual movement and grouping patterns of the lions. The four male lions (“Musketeers”) have separated with two males (Xpl-90 “Polla” and Xpl-92 “Adolf”) returning to the Gomatum River near Tomakas.
25/26 Jun 2016. Mountains. The four male lions (“Musketeers”) entered the mountains south of Tomakas and they have remained close to a spring for the past two days.
24 Jun 2016. To Tomakas. The “Four Musketeers” moved down the Gomatum River towards Tomakas. At 01h30 they were < 1.5 km from the settlement, but they avoided the village and livestock as they skirted along a deep wash to the south.
23 Jun 2016. Return to Giraffe. Against expectations the four male lions descended from the mountains and returned to the remains of their giraffe kill at 02h30 this morning. They did not approach the Omiriu village and livestock. At 04h15 they left the carcass and moved in an easterly direction along the Gomatum valley.
22 Jun 2016. Dogs. The four male lions descended from the narrow gorge in the late afternoon and continued feeding on the remains of their giraffe carcass (photo: top left). Several domestic dogs from the village approached the lions at the carcass (photo: bottom left). The lions did not like the dogs hanging around and barking at them. One of the dogs was lucky to escape when the lions gave chase. At daybreak the “Four Musketeers” had consumed the giraffe carcass and headed for a gorge that leads to Okongwe waterhole. By 10h00 they had crossed over the first set of mountains.
21 Jun 2016. Giraffe. After spending the day in a narrow gorge the “Four Musketeers” moved down to the dry riverbed at 01h00 this morning and continued westwards towards Omiriu village. When 900 metres from the village they started stalking and it was feared that they were targeting the livestock. Moments before flashing lights and fireworks were deployed to scare them off it became apparent that they were actually hunting giraffes that were browsing along the riverbed. At 01h50 the lions killed an adult female giraffe near the water point 800 metres from the settlement. At sunrise the Ministry of Environment & Tourism was informed of the development. The lions were disturbed from the giraffe carcass. They moved away and returned to the narrow gorge where they spent yesterday. The remains of the giraffe carcass were then dragged to the base of the gorge 3.2 km northeast of Omiriu village (photo: bottom right). The livestock owners are commended for actively herding the livestock and ensuring that there are no stragglers moving around at night (photo: bottom left).
20 Jun 2016. Omiriu Village. The “Four Musketeers” spent the day in the mountains. They emerged this morning at 03h30 and continued moving westwards along the Gomatum valley. They reached Omiriu at 05h30, but did not approach the village. At daybreak the lions quickly moved to the safety of the mountains.
19 Jun 2016. Moonlight. Last night at 22h30 the “Four Musketeers” moved out of the Okongwe Mountains following the same route as the previous night (see map 18 Jun 2016). They were observed in the moonlight (photo: top left) as they avoided Tomakas and continued moving westwards along the Gomatum Valley. Fortunately there were no livestock roaming freely and at 03h00 this morning they killed an adult female Oryx 9 km west of Tomakas. Xpl-91 “Ben” is not showing any signs of discomfort from the bullet wound that he sustained a week ago (photos: bottom row).
18 Jun 2016. Setback. At 01h00 the four male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved out of the Okongwe Mountains (see map below) towards Tomakas, but they did not approach the village. Instead, the lions remained close to the edge of the mountains and headed in a westerly direction (map: red line) where several giraffes were browsing along the Gomatum valley. Unfortunately the lions encountered a small group of cattle calves that did not return to the safety of the corrals at Tomakas. The lions killed two calves 2.5 km west of Tomakas. Bright lights and fireworks were used to prevent the lions from approaching Tomakas. The wounded lion, Xpl-91 “Ben” (photos: bottom row), is making a remarkable recovery from the bullet wound to his lower abdomen.
17 Jun 2016. Movements. A summary of the movements of the male lions (the “Musketeers”) over the past six days is presented below. The route starts on 11 Jun 2016 (red line) and ends on 16 Jun 2016 (green line). During this period they actively hunted giraffes that frequent the Gomatum valley. They killed one giraffe and then an Oryx after two of the Okongwe lionesses joined them.
16 Jun 2016. "Four" Musketeers. The remaining four adult male lions (“Musketeers”) were observed during their return to Okongwe waterhole. Xpl-91 “Ben” is recovering from the bullet wound to his lower abdomen (photo: bottom right). He has spent a lot of time licking and keeping the wounds clean. Up until yesterday afternoon there has been no signs of infection. Two of the Okongwe lionesses spent the night at Otjizeka spring, but by morning they started moving back towards Okongwe.
15 Jun 2016. Omiriu Cattle Post. During the night the remaining four male lions (the “Musketeers”) continued moving towards Okongwe and they were south of the waterhole this morning. The Desert Lion Project assisted the Ministry of Environment & Tourism with their management and investigation of the incident. After all the biological data and other information were collected the carcass of Xpl-89 was burnt as a safeguard against the growing illegal trade in lion bones. The wounded lion (Xpl-91 – photo: middle left) appears to be recovering and he will be kept under observation for the next few days.
On the night of 10/11 Jun 2016 the “Five Musketeers” returned to the Gomatum River where they killed a giraffe the previous day and walked past the Omiriu cattle outpost. The lions approached the settlement with large numbers of livestock. One of the lions (presumably Xpl-92 “Adolf” – photos: bottom row) broke into a corral. Fortunately, due to the disturbance caused by the villagers and their dogs, the lions moved away without killing any livestock. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism are still busy with their investigation, but at some point between Omiriu and Otjizeka spring the villagers exercised their legal right to protect their livelihood by shooting at the lions.
|Images of the place where the lion breached the corral.||Xpl-92 “Adolf” with scars on face.|
14 Jun 2016. Xpl-89 "Harry". Finding the carcass of Xpl-89 inside the Salvadora thickets was challenging and required crawling for approximately 30 metres through the thick undergrowth (photos: top row). An autopsy was performed on the carcass and biological samples were collected. The lion died quickly from a single gunshot to the chest. The bullet passed through the heart and lungs. The remaining four male lions were monitored closely and the bullet wound to Xpl-91 “Ben” does not appear to be serious. Two Okongwe lionesses joined the males during the night and after sunrise they were all observed scaling the tall mountains to the south of the Gomatum valley.
13 Jun 2016. Conflict. When the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved past the temporary cattle post (12 km west of Tomakas) two days ago a human-lion conflict incident occurred somewhere between the cattle post and Otjizeka spring (15 km further west). The exact details of the incident are still unclear. Deep inside a Salvadora thicket at Otjizeka spring Xpl-89 “Harry” died of a mortal bullet wound to the chest during the early morning hours on 12 Jun 2016 (photo: bottom right). When the remaining four lions were observed at sunset, two of the males showed signs of injuries. Xpl-92 “Adolf” had a new wound on his right cheek (photo: bottom left) and Xpl-91 “Ben” appeared to have a bullet wound. The photos below suggest that he may have been shot in the lower stomach (photos: top middle & right and bottom middle). It would appear that the bullet passed straight through. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism was informed of the developments. The Purros Conservancy, MET, IRDNC, Okahirongo Elephant Lodge and DLP are all working together to defuse the tense situation.
12 Jun 2016. Okongwe Lioness. The “Five Musketeers” followed the Okongwe lioness (Xpl-70) in a westerly direction along the Gomatum River towards the Otjizeka spring 11 east of Purros. During the night the five males were observed hunting giraffes near the spring. By morning the lionesses had moved on, but the “Musketeers” were inside the thick Salvadora and Tamarisk vegetation at the spring.
11 Jun 2016. Gomatum River. The “Five Musketeers” have returned to the Gomatum River and moved further east. This exposes them to new dangers and an increased risk of human-lion conflict.
10 Jun 2016. Bats of the Namib. An interesting study is currently focussing on the factors influencing the community structure of bats in the Namib Desert. Theresa Laverty (Colorado State University) and Lina Mushbati (University of Namibia) are also looking at variations in echolocation as influenced by habitat and geographic location. Below is a female Angolan wing-gland bat caught in a mist-net at a waterhole near the Hoanib River. The bat weighed 3.5 grams.
9 Jun 2016. More Cattle. After the “Five Musketeers” consumed their giraffe kill they moved into a narrow gorge on the southern edge of the Gomatum valley. From this vantage point they had a clear view of a herd of cattle that grazed along the valley (photos below). After sunset bright flashing lights and fireworks were used to deter the lions from approaching the cattle and the temporary settlement situated 12 km west of Tomakas. The lions were reluctant to traverse the steep gorge and tried several times to move towards the cattle. Regular bursts of flashing lights and fireworks were maintained until 04h00 this morning when the lions scaled the steep mountain slopes and moved out of the valley towards Okongwe waterhole.
8 Jun 2016. Giraffe. During the day the “Five Musketeers” rested in a mopane thicket, but they remained fixated on several groups of giraffes that were browsing along the Gomatum valley (photo: left). After nightfall they continued pursuing the giraffes and eventually captured a sub-adult female on the southern slopes of the valley 10 km east of Tomakas. By sunrise this morning they had consumed the carcass (photo: bottom right).
7 Jun 2016. Musketeers Reunited. A lone female sheep was found after dark several kilometres from Tomakas village. The ewe became separated from the flock when she gave birth to twins. With the help of Rodney Tjavara (see 2/3 Jun 2016) the ewe and her two newborn lambs were loaded in the Land cruiser and transported to the safety of a corral at Tomakas (photos: below left). At 01h30 this morning the two groups of male lions (the “Musketeers”) converged on Tomakas to reunite. The lions avoided the village as bright flashing lights and fireworks were deployed on two occasions. At sunrise the “Five Musketeers” were observed hunting giraffes in the Gomatum River 8 km northeast of Tomakas.
6 Jun 2016. Giribis Plain. The three male lions (Xpl-89, 90 & 91) scouted the Giribis Plains up to 12 km south of Tomakas (photos below). Fortunately they decided to return to the Okomaruru Mountains before reaching the Ganamub Village where large numbers of cattle are grazing on the plains. The rest of the “Musketeers” are still in the Okongwe Mountains although they have moved closer to Tomakas.
5 Jun 2016. Success at Tomakas. At 02h00 this morning the three male lions (Xpl-89, 90 & 91 of the “Five Musketeers”) approached the Tomakas village. The livestock were all inside makeshift protective enclosures and there were no stragglers that the lions could target. When the lions reached a distance of 1.2 km from the village a combination of flashing lights, loud noises and fireworks were deployed (photos: bottom row). The lions responded instantly and moved away from the village. A reconstruction of their tracks later this morning revealed how they stopped, turned around and ran away from the disturbance (photo: top right).
4 Jun 2016. Corral for Tomakas. Camelthorn Safaris took the initiative to transport the materials and assemble a protective enclosure for livestock at Tomakas village (photos below). Fritz Schenk, IRDNC, Into Nature Productions, Wilderness Safaris and TOSCO are thanked for their respective roles in erecting the corral at Tomakas. During the past few weeks the management of livestock has improved substantially as both goats and cattle are herded into makeshift enclosures at night. The new corral will aid this process and will reduce the risk of human-lion conflict.
2/3 Jun 2016. Hero of Tomakas. Rodney Tjavara of the Purros Conservancy (photos: top & bottom left) has been instrumental in the management of human-lion conflict at the Tomakas village during the past three weeks. When three male lions (of the “Five Musketeers”) unexpectedly approached the village at 03h00 on 2 Jun 2016 Rodney reacted quickly and used his skill and training to chase the lions away using fireworks and whistles. The “Five Musketeers” separated on 2 Jun 2016 with three of the males (Xpl-89, Xpl-90 & Xpl-91) moving to Tomakas whilst the remaining two males stayed with the Okongwe lionesses at Okongwe waterhole.
1 Jun 2016. Back to Okongwe. The “Five Musketeers” have remained in the Okongwe Mountains near the Okongwe waterhole. The three small cubs of the Floodplain Pride are still alive and one of the lionesses is currently in oestrous.
29/30 May 2016. Back to Okongwe. The five male lions (the “Musketeers”) finally left the Tomakas / Okomaruru area and returned to the Okongwe waterhole where they joined the Okongwe lionesses. The female cheetah (Xaj-2) was observed north of the Hoanib River with her two small cubs.
27/28 May 2016. Tomakas Movements. The remainder of the giraffe carcass was moved away from the Tomakas village. The “Five Musketeers” are continuing with their perilous movement pattern of crossing back and forth between the Okongwe to the Okomaruru Mountains via the Tomakas village. The risk of a serious human-lion conflict incident is looming if the situation continues.
25/26 May 2016. Return to Tomakas. The rear diff of the Land Cruiser arrived in Swakopmund at 17h00 on the 25th May 2016. Koos Theron and Swakop Body Works worked until 21h00 to fit the diff and get the vehicle mobile (photos: top row). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Koos Theron, Bernd Kebbel and Manfred Laborn for their support. Tomakas was reached last night after a 14-hour drive. The five male lions (the “Musleteers”) killed an adult male giraffe 1.5 km east of the village. The Tomakas community kept their livestock inside protective enclosures during the night and the lions returned to the Okomaruru hills after consuming the remainder of the carcass (photos: bottom row).
23 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs-2. Whilst the rear diff of the Land Cruiser is being repaired in Windhoek the opportunity was used to repair and service numerous items on the research vehicle, such as the rotating radio telemetry antenna, the rear fuel tank, etc.
21 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs. The rear diff of the research vehicle was removed at Swakop Body Works and sent to Windhoek for repairs. The damaged rear fuel tank was also removed and repaired.
20 May 2016. Musketeers avoid Tomakas. During the night the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved eastwards from the Okongwe Mountains onto the Giribis plains (see map below). Their movements suggest that they may have skirted around Tomakas in order to get to the Okomaruru area that they have been favouring for the past few weeks. The female cheetah (Xaj-2) returned to the lower Hoanib River with her two small cubs and Wilderness Safaris observed them on several occasions (photos: Liberty Eiseb).
19 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs. Driving the crippled research vehicle to Swakopmund was a time consuming affair as it became bogged-down in soft sand on numerous occasions due to soft sand deposited by the recent southwesterly winds. The “Five Musketeers” have not returned to Tomakas. The Hoanib lioness (Xpl-59) have returned yet again to the spot where her sister (Xpl-47 “Bianca”) was killed during a human-lion conflict incident 7 months ago (see Week 2 of Nov 2015).
16/17 May 2016. Okomaruru to Okongwe. The “Five Musketeers” approached the Tomakas area at 22h00 on 16 May 2016 on their way to the Okongwe Mountains. All the livestock were herded inside a protective enclosure and the lions were deterred from approaching the village with lights and fireworks. At 06h00 the lions circumvented the area and entered the Okongwe Mountains where they remained for the following night. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Purros Lion Rangers are monitoring the situation whilst the Desert Lion vehicle will be repaired in Swakopmund during the following few days.
15 May 2016. Okomaruru. The Tomakas community was remarkably tolerant after the lions killed a cow near their village last night. The Headman, Japie Uraravi (photo: bottom far left), was appreciative of the efforts of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, IRDNC and the Desert Lion Project. Throughout the night all the parties involved (including members of Tomakas) contributed to keeping the lions from approaching the livestock around the settlement. At 05h30 this morning the five male lions moved to Okomaruru spring in the mountains 7 km southeast of Tomakas.
14 May 2016. Failure at 04:00. The “Five Musketeers” were located at a spring in the mountains southeast of Tomakas. They were in good condition and had eaten recently. At 04h00 this morning the lions sneaked past the research vehicle and killed a cow close to the Tomakas village. The radio telemetry receivers failed to detect the VHF signals of their collars. For an unknown reason the frequencies of the collars shifted during the cold morning hours. Once corrected the lions were located and chased away from the village and into the mountains towards Okongwe. Allowing the lions to approach the village and kill a cow is a major setback to the conservation efforts.
13 May 2016. Guarding Tomakas. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the Purros Lion Rangers, IRDNC & the DLP teamed-up to monitor the situation at Tomakas village. During the night the five male lions (“Musketeers”) moved to a spring in the mountains 9 km southeast of Tomakas (map below).
12 May 2016. Kamanjab to Tomakas. The two-day workshop towards developing a Northwest Lion Management Plan held in Kamanjab was a success. The meeting was chaired by Kenneth /Uiseb of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (photo: below left) and he is commended for skilfully facilitating difficult and sometimes heated discussions. The problem situation at Tomakas was discussed in detail. During the return trip to Tomakas the field vehicle had two flat tires and a rock damaged the fuel line.
10/11 May 2016. Tomakas to Kamanjab. The Okongwe lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were displaced from the Tomakas village using sound playbacks and fireworks. The lions moved into the mountains towards Okongwe and they were 12 km southwest of Tomakas by sunrise. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism called a meeting in Kamajab to discuss the conservation of lions in the Kunene region and to develop a management plan to address human-lion conflict (photo below). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Klaus Schubert, Wilderness Safaris and P de Wet for assisting with the transport and delivering of the supply of fireworks to Hoanib Camp.
9 May 2016. Heading for Tomakas. Hopes of reaching Tomakas and the “Five Musketeers” by nightfall were curbed because a supply of fireworks that were ordered from Windhoek two weeks ago has gone astray. In addition, along the way the field vehicle became stuck in soft sand on several occasions due to the broken rear axel.
8 May 2016. Finish. The last stage (10 km) of the 4 Deserts Race was completed in dramatic fashion at Torra Bay (photos below). The event was a great success with very little impact on the environment. The 4 Deserts Race Management, NWR and the Namibian support team should be commended for executing a flawless operation under difficult environmental conditions that provided valuable exposure to the Skeleton Coast Park and to Namibia. Efforts have now been turned to the “Five Musketeers” that are in danger of attacking livestock at Tomakas.
7 May 2016. Day 5/6. The demanding 77 km route of the fifth stage of the 4 Deserts Race was completed without incident. This was mainly due to the efficiency of the 4 Deserts Management and their Namibian support team. The last competitors arrived at the Torra Bay Camp at 11h45 (see comments & photos below).
|Athletes traversing the Uniab dunes.||Athletes passing by a checkpoint at 21h00.||Checkpoint 4 offered a valued rest stop.|
|The Finish line at 03h30 this morning.||Arrival of a competitor on the 24-hour mark||Applauded arrival of last athletes at 27h 43m|
6 May 2016. Day 5. The penultimate stage of the 4 Deserts Race takes the athletes down the Uniab River to the Uniab Delta, where the probability of encountering lions is highest, and then along the coastline to Torra Bay. The participants have two days to complete the gruelling 77.0 km and it is expected that many will run throughout the night. Efforts are in place to ensure the safety of the athletes. In the meantime the “Five Musketeers” followed the Okongwe lionesses back to the livestock at Tomakas village. With the help of Wilderness Safaris (Clement Lawrence) efforts were made last night to deter the lions from approaching the livestock grazing around Tomakas. The use of firecrackers and lights appeared to have worked as the lions moved into the hills to the southeast of Tomakas.
5 May 2016. Day 4. On the fourth day of the 4 Deserts Race the athletes started from the Springbokwasser Camp (photo: top) and followed the Old German Road for 41.0 km to the Uniab River. The route took them across vast basalt plains and past the spot where the Dorob Male (Xpl-77) killed a Hartmann’s zebra on 5 Jun 2013 (photo: bottom right).
4 May 2016. Day 3. The third stage of the 4 Deserts Race took the athletes along the Koigab River to Ugib spring (photo: 2nd row left) and then across the basalt plains to Springbokwasser (42.0 km). The area was scanned intensively, but there were no fresh signs of lion movements. The “Five Musketeers” have followed the Okongwe lioness (Xpl-104) and moved closer to Tomakas during the early morning hours.
3 May 2016. Day 2. Stage 2 of the 4 Desert Race (42.0 km) took the athletes along the coastline past a large seal colony to an old shipwreck and then across the gravel plains to the Koigab River at the main coastal road. The participants observed several brown hyaenas, including a hyaena carrying part of a seal carcass (photo: bottom right). During the night brown hyaenas damaged several plastic water bottles that were stored at the checkpoints (e.g. photo: bottom left). The “Five Musketeers” are still in the Okongwe Mountains.
2 May 2016. Day 1. The first day of the 4 Deserts Race was a success as 215 athletes from 43 countries started from the Huab Lagoon on a 37.3 km course that took them past an old oilrig and the abandoned Toscanini diamond mine. During the next 5 days they will run 42, 42, 41, 77 & 10 km per day respectively towards the total of 249.3 km of the Race.
1 May 2016. Safety. The areas surrounding the course of the 4 Deserts Race are being scanned continuously for signs of lion movements. There are approximately 25 lions (8 with radio collars) from four prides/groups that occasionally utilise the area around the 750 km course (photo below: the Obab Pride on 23 Mar 2016). The chances of lions moving through this area during the next seven days are slim, but precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the athletes.
Visitor Map. Summary of visitors to the Desert Lion website since 15 Jan 2013.