Current NEWS

March 2015

Lion Movements - go to Current Locations. OR Huab Pride / Hunkap Pride / Okongwe Pride

5 Mar 2015. Zebra Kill. The Floodplain lionesses and the rest of the “Musketeers” killed an adult female Hartmann’s zebra in a wash near the Tsuxib River at dawn. They were observed feeding for most of the day. The remaining two “Musketeers” (Xpl-91 & Xpl-92) moved westwards during the night, but they have not yet re-joined the rest of the Pride.

4 Mar 2015. "Musketeers". The two “Musketeers” (Xpl-92 “Adolf” – photo: top left and Xpl-91 “Ben” – photo: top right) were observed during the night as they followed four Okongwe lionesses for 15 km in an easterly direction towards the Obias River. The Okongwe females consist of 2 adults (Xpl-70) & 2 sub-adults (see camera-trap photos: bottom row).

3 Mar 2015. Floodplain vs. Okongwe. The Floodplain Pride and the “Five Musketeers” moved out of the mountainous terrain towards the Tsuxib River. During the night they encountered the surviving members of the Okongwe Pride. Two of the “Musketeers” (Xpl-91 “Ben” & Xpl-92 “Adolf”; photos below) separated from the Pride and were observed following and stalking one of the Okongwe lionesses. Fabrizio Barbera of Wilderness Safaris is thanked for reporting his observations.

2 Mar 2015. Ugab Male. The young male lion (Xpl-98) returned to the Ugab River after spending four days in the Dorob National Park. He walked 75.8 km and turned around approximately 38 km from the Cape Cross seal colony.

1 Mar 2015. Hoanib Floodplain. Large sections of the Hoanib Floodplain have dried up and are now accessible by vehicle. The floodwaters of 24 Jan 2015 have caused dramatic changes to the old track and the major drainage lines (photo: top). Large numbers of herbivores and birds have been attracted to the lush green vegetation and pools of water. All the elephants that generally utilise the Hoanib River were observed in the western section of the Floodplain (photo: bottom). The Ugab lion (Xpl-98) has returned to the Ugab River.

28 Feb 2015. Okongwe Pride. Five lions of the Okongwe Pride, including Xpl-71, were observed in the southern section of the Okongwe Mountains (see photos below by F Barbera). This is a valuable observation because it confirms that the radio-collared lioness (Xpl-71), one unmarked adult female and three sub-adults survived the conflict incidents near Tomakas village during the latter part of 2014 where three satellite-collared lions (Xpl-73 “Rosh”, Xpl-68 “Terrace Male” & Xpl-96) were killed.

27 Feb 2015. Five Musketeers. For the past 10 days the Floodplain Pride and the “Five Musketeers” have been favouring the mountainous terrain especially along the Sawarugab River approximately 10 km north of the Hoanib River. The area received some rain and there are many herds of zebras and Oryx. Due to the difficult terrain it has not been possible to observe them, but a brief sighting confirmed that they are all still together and in good condition. The Ugab male (Xpl-98) has moved further north and he is currently 12 km south of the Ugab River.

26 Feb 2015. Brown Hyaena Effort. Six nights and approximately 105 hours were devoted to the Amp’s Poort brown hyaena clan. The main effort went into attempting to fit a GPS collar to the Alpha female “Joey” (Xhb-16) whilst conducting simultaneous observations at the den. Despite a few missed opportunities, “Joey” was too clever for the darting efforts. She was seen at the den and carrying food back to the cubs on a few occasions (photos: top row). Observation on the two cubs included fascinating social behaviour, such as playing (photo: bottom right).

25 Feb 2015. Lion in Dorob Park -2. The Ugab male (Xpl-98) first moved further south towards Cape Cross during the night, but then turned around and headed back to the Ugab River (see map below). Another 24 hours were spent trying to dart “Joey” (Xhb-16) without success.

24 Feb 2015. Lion in Dorob Park. The sub-adult male lion (Xpl-98) that was recently marked in the Ugab River with a satellite collar (see 10 Jan 2015) has moved southwards into the Dorob Park. He is currently near the Messum River east of Mile 108 and his movements are being monitored. Efforts to capture Xhb-16 “Joey” (see 22 Feb 2015) continue. She is a wise old girl and the simple procedure of replacing her radio collar is proving to be rather challenging (see photos below).

23 Feb 2015. Floodplain. An attempt was made to access the Hoanib Floodplain by vehicle. Most of the flooded areas are dry, but there are still pools of water and muddy sections (photo: top). The brown hyaena “Joey” (Xhb-16) finally returned to the den (photos: bottom).

22 Feb 2015. Brown Hyaenas. Two nights were spent searching for the radio-collared brown hyaena, Xhb-16 “Joey”, in order to replace her ageing VHF radio collar with a newly modified GPS collar. Several members of her clan were observed (photo below), but “Joey” has not yet returned from a foraging expedition to the west where her radio signal was last heard.

21 Feb 2015. Hoanib River. Large sections of the Hoanib River have dried up after the major flooding event in January 2015 (see 24-28 Jan 2015). The powerful floodwaters changed the course of the river and uprooted several big trees (photos below).

20 Feb 2015. Camera-Trap. A camera-trap on the Hoanib Floodplain became submerged during the surprise flash flood on 24 Jan 2015 (photo: bottom right). The memory card was removed, dried and cleaned, and it was possible to retrieve all the images up until the camera was submerged and covered in mud. The floodwaters reached the camera at 10h54 (photo: left). Six minutes later the water levels had risen to the camera at a height of 1.9 metres (photo: top right) and at 11h03 the camera was totally submerged and stopped working (move mouse over bottom right photo).

19 Feb 2015. Missing Lioness. Photographs taken by Tina Vinjevold of the Agab Pride on 24 Oct 2014 revealed an interesting record. Using vibrissae spot patterns it was possible to identify one of the pride lionesses (Xpl-60 “Fay”) that has not been seen for more than two years after her radio collar failed and dropped off.

18 Feb 2015. Ohima Mountain. A new camera-trap was mounted near Ohima Mountain in the Hoanib Floodplain on 23 Jan 2015. After only three weeks a surprising number of valuable images of brown hyaenas, caracals and cheetahs were downloaded (see photos below).

17 Feb 2015. Responsible Tourism. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism, in conjunction with the communal conservancies and Wilderness Safaris, have placed signposts in and around the Palmwag Tourism Concession area (photos: top left & middle). These signposts provide guidelines and information to tourists visiting the area. Despite a prominent request for tourists NOT to camp at waterholes or in the Hoanib River, the following images (see photos below) were captured at the “President’s Water” (Hoanib/Mudorib junction). The “Five Musketeers” were clearly disturbed by the tourists camping next to the “President’s Water”.

16 Feb 2015. Mudorib. Several herds of Oryx and Hartmann’s zebras were observed in the upper Mudorib tributaries. Two young adult lionesses joined the Hunkap males (Xpl-81 & Xpl-87 during the night. The Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-47 & Xpl-59) were located in the Hoanib River east of Ganamub Poort. It was possible to drive along the Hoanib River between Elephant Song and the Obias Junction following the flooding of two weeks ago.

15 Feb 2015. "Kebbel". The two Hunkap males (Xpl-81 “Kebbel” & Xpl-87) were observed at sunrise near Orowau spring. They roared often during the coolness of the early morning. When it became hot towards midday, they moved in an easterly direction to find shade under a rock-overhang.

14 Feb 2015. Kuarokhaob. Images were retrieved from four camera-traps in the upper Mudorib River and at Hunkap Spring. The two Hoanib Pride lionesses (E=MC^2 & “Bianca”) and their cubs were recorded several times near the main Mudorib spring during the past two weeks (photos below). The Hunkap lioness (Xpl-53 “Charlotte”) with several lionesses and sub-adults were located in the northern section of the Kuarokhaob Plains and the Hunkap male (Xpl-87) was found 7 km east of Orowau spring.

13 Feb 2015. Obab River. A small sub-group of the Obab Pride was located near the junction of the Uniab & Obab Rivers (photo: left). Images downloaded from a camera-trap in the lower Obab River contained records of a male leopard and a breeding female brown hyaena (see photos below).

12 Feb 2015. Brandberg Mountain. The Ugab lions are moving more regularly south of the Ugab River and along the northwestern slopes of the Brandberg Mountain.

10/11 Feb 2015. Cymot. The six new Cooper S/T tires, sponsored by Cymot, Namibia (see 5 Feb 2015), were fitted to the Land Cruiser. Detailed records (such as tire pressures, terrain & distances) will be kept during the next few months to evaluate the performance of the tires.

9 Feb 2015. Brandberg. The Ugab male (Xpl-98) has been spending time along the foothills of the Brandberg Mountain. Tracks suggest that he is in the company of 2 or 3 other lions. They are possibly hunting Hartmann’s zebras that utilise the area.

7/8 Feb 2015. Coast. During the past two days the Obab lionesses (see 30 Jan 2015) discovered the Uniab Delta and visited several of the springs near the mouth of the Uniab River. It is suspected that they made a kill in the reeds north of the Uniab River before they moved back towards the Obab River.

6 Feb 2015. Ugab Lion. The sub-adult male lion (Xpl-98) fitted with a satellite collar on 10 Jan 2015 has been moving up and down the Ugab River - between Brandberg and approximately 5 km east of the coast. The map below shows his movements (blue dots) during the past 24 hours.

5 Feb 2015. Tire Donation. Cymot Namibia approached the Desert Lion Project and made a substantial donation of six new Cooper tires. This initiative followed a period where the Project struggled with worn tires, with some tires having been patched far too many times (photo: left). Manfred Laborn and Francois Thirion of Cymot are thanked for facilitating the generous donation.

4 Feb 2015. Caracal. Data retrieved from the camera-traps on the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain included pictures of the two Floodplain lionesses during one of the excursions without the “Five Musketeers” (photos: left & middle) and a valuable record of an adult male caracal (photo: right).

3 Feb 2015. "Yellow-billed Kites". Tens of thousands of Yellow-billed kites were observed south of the Huab River. They appeared to be feeding on termites. Large numbers were sitting in Mopane trees or on the ground, but the majority were flying - towering hundred of metres above ground level. The spectacle was reminiscent of the 1963 film “The Birds” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

2 Feb 2015. "Joey". Monitoring of the brown hyaena den at Amp’s Poort is producing interesting data. The radio-collared female “Joey” (Xhb-16) and several other individuals are observed regularly. Records of the carcasses carried to the den suggest that the hyaenas eat a wide range of food items.

1 Feb 2015. Cheetah. A camera-trap that was mounted at a brown hyaena latrine under a granite rock overhang captured several images of a cheetah visiting the latrine or perhaps using the shade of the overhang.

31 Jan 2015. Obab Females. During the night the four Obab lionesses moved east of the dunes and into the Uniab River as they continued to search for prey. They were observed hunting another ostrich and an Oryx.

30 Jan 2015. Uniab Dunes. The recent rains and flooding of the ephemeral rivers have restricted access to large areas. The lower section of the Uniab River, however, was not affect by the floods. Four of the Obab lionesses were located in the dunes east of the Uniab Delta. They were observed hunting an ostrich.

29 Jan 2015. Hoanib Mouth. The force of the Hoanib River floodwaters managed to cut through 12.4 km of sand dunes after it dammed up against the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain (see images 28 Jan 2015). The floodwaters then continued for another 4.5 km through reeds and sedges before it ran out of steam a few hundred metres from the ocean.

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28 Jan 2015. World of Extremes. Extraordinary scenes were witnessed and documented during the past few days as the floodwaters in the Hoanib River increased and filled up the Floodplain. The “Five Musketeers” became trapped on an island as the waters levels rose. They eventually braved the strong currents and swam across to the southern bank of the river (photos: second row). On the morning of 27 Jan 2015 the water broke through the dunes towards the sea (photos below).

26 Jan 2015. Floodwaters Continue. The Hoanib River was a sight to behold as the floodwaters continued to flow throughout the night. By late-morning the water level was substantially higher at the border of the Skeleton Coast Park than the pervious day. The water also reached the dunes as large sections of the Floodplain has filled up.

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25 Jan 2015. Flash Floods. The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-69) that is in oestrous did not respond to the distant calls from the rest of her pride. She moved in an easterly direction instead and roared occasionally as she searched for a mate (photo: top). During the early morning hours she killed an Oryx in the Hoanib River and then became trapped on a small island when the floodwaters arrived at 09h30. She guarded her kill for several hours, but eventually waded through the water to the southern bank. The floodwaters also trapped a small herd of giraffes in the rivers (photo: 2nd row left), but they too managed to get to the bank.

24 Jan 2015 13h00. Hoanib Flood. The Hoanib River came down in full flood this morning. The floodwaters reached Amp’s Poort at 09h30. The force of the flood and the volume of water had not been seen for many years. One of the Floodplain lionesses became trapped on an island in the River and she is being monitored.

24 Jan 2015. Lone Lioness. One of the Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-69) is in oestrous and has left the pride. Her behaviour has been unusual as she is clearly search for a male. Unfortunately there are no adult male lions in a very large area beyond her extended home range. The past two days have been overcast with soft rain falling occasionally.

23 Jan 2015. Ostrich - 2. The mystery of how an adult male ostrich ended up at the bottom of a narrow hole (1.2 metres deep; see 22 Jan 2015) could not be solved. One theory is that a brown hyaena might have stashed the carcass in the hole. A camera-trap mounted at the hole showed that the lioness returned to the scene (photos: top left), but unfortunately she knocked the camera over before pulling the ostrich out of the hole. The lioness protected the carcass against a bombardment of Pied crows (photos: bottom left) before dragging it to the shade of a nearby rock overhang.

22 Jan 2015. Ostrich. A lioness was located inside a deep hole in the ground in the lower Hoanib River (photo: below left). After the lioness left the area an ostrich carcass was found inside the hole (photos: below). Tracks in the surrounding area were examined, but it is unclear how the ostrich carcass got into the hole. A camera-trap was activated to monitor further activities at the carcass.

21 Jan 2015. Uniab Mouth. A report was received by the MET staff of Skeleton Coast Park that tracks of 2 to 3 lions had been spotted near the beach at the mouth of the Uniab River. The report was investigated and after several hours of searching the area it was confirmed that the tracks were those of brown hyaenas (photo: bottom right).

20 Jan 2015. Hunting Alone. Xpl-69 separated from the rest of the Floodplain Pride and moved to the eastern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. The lioness hunted actively for giraffes and Oryx. More than 10 hunts, mainly on giraffe, where observed, but she has not yet been successful.

19 Jan 2015. Forty Days. The making of the wildlife documentary on the behaviour of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions, “Vanishing Kings” by Into Nature Productions (see 13 Nov 2014 for details), is nearing completion. Only 40 days of active filming remain. The Desert Lion Project is working closely with Will & Lianne Steenkamp and assisting them to ensure that they get the best possible footage during the final stage of what promises to be an epic film. An elaborative hunt on a herd of giraffes that lasted almost three hours was observed earlier this morning (photos: below).

18 Jan 2015. Okongwe Lions. It is unknown how many lions of the Okongwe Pride are still alive after the killings of the “Terrace Male (Xpl-68) on 24 Aug 2014 and the satellite-collared lioness (Xpl-96) on 23 Oct 2014. During both incidents the satellite collars were destroyed, but it was still possible to verify the mortalities by investigating the last recorded positions of the collars. However, the mortalities of unmarked lions may have gone undetected. Fieldwork and images from the two camera-traps in the Okongwe area suggests that at least one adult lioness (Xpl-70 - with a faulty satellite collar; photo: right) and three sub-adult lions (photos: left) may still be alive.

17 Jan 2015. Spotted Hyaenas. There appears to be a marked increase in the numbers and activities of spotted hyaenas in the study area during the past year. The increase has been most noticeable in the Okongwe area (see camera-trap photos below), the Hunkap, Barab & Springbok Rivers, and around Gai-Ais spring (see News 15 Jan 2015).

16 Jan 2015. Hunting Success. The “Five Musketeers” have become skilled hunters. Observations on the hunting behaviour of the Floodplain Pride during the past few days, as they moved in and around the lower Hoanib, have confirmed that they participate actively with the lionesses in co-ordinated co-operative hunts. Earlier this morning they succeeded in capturing two animals during a single hunt on a herd of Oryx: a lioness captured a calf whilst one of the sub-adult males “Tullamore” (Xpl-93) brought down an adult female Oryx. The Pride consumed both carcasses within a couple of hours.

15 Jan 2015. Thank You. During the past week approximately 30,000 photographs were downloaded from seven different camera-traps. On three occasions during the past 4 months some tourists visiting Gai-Ais & Hunkap springs cleaned the lenses of the camera-traps that had become covered in mud from (mainly) zebras rubbing against them. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank those individuals for their consideration. More than 10,000 photographs (including all the photos below) would not have been usable were it not for their acts of kindness.

14 Jan 2015. . Floodplain. The Floodplain Pride moved deep into the dunes north of the Floodplain. The area was too sensitive to follow them.

13 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". The Floodplain Pride was located in the maze of washes and granite outcrops south of Sima Hill. After being apart for almost a week the “Five Musketeers” reconnected with the lionesses and they are all in good condition, except for Xpl-90 “Polla” who is limping slightly with an injury to his left front leg.

12 Jan 2015. Stuck. The Land Cruiser became badly stuck in soft drift-sand that formed due to the recent south-westerly winds. After much digging and cussing the vehicle was eventually freed 16 hours later. However, the problem of punctures to the worn tires is continuing.

11 Jan 2015. Snags. After Xpl-98 recovered from the anaesthetics, he destroyed a camera-trap that was mounted nearby to monitor his recovery. The only usable images were of the lion grabbing and biting the camera (photos: top left & middle). A total of five flat tires had to be repaired during the day and the vehicle became badly stuck in the mud along the Ugab River and again in the dunes near the Uniab River.

10 Jan 2015. Another "Miles". A three-year old male lion (Xpl-98) was immobilised in the Ugab River north of the Brandberg and he was fitted with a satellite collar. Using vibrissae spot patterns the lion was identified as the cub of Xpl-75 “Angela”. He was born in Feb 2012 in the Huab River (photo: right) and there is a high probability that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is his farther. It is also an odd coincidence that Xpl-98 is related to “Miles” (Xpl-16) - the first lion to disperse and settle in the Ugab River after the population crash of the 1980s / 1990s. Born in the Agab River, “Miles” was the son of Xpl-17 and he had two siblings (Xpl-22 female & Xpl-23 male). Xpl-22 is the mother of Xpl-75 “Angela”.

9 Jan 2015. Ugab Lions. The tracks of two lions, including the sub-adult male that was located yesterday, were followed in an on-going effort to fit a satellite collar. The influx of lions in the Ugab River is a significant development and it is essential that their movements be monitored closely.

8 Jan 2015. Ugab/Huab. The tracks of a sub-adult male lion were followed from the Doros Crater area to the Ugab River. An attempt to immobilise the lion to fit a satellite collar failed due to a faulty dart.

7 Jan 2015. Rotating Antenna. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Joe Noci for the design and building of a directional antenna structure that can be manipulated from inside the vehicle (photo: right). For many years the Project used an antenna fixed to the roof of the vehicle and depended on moving the vehicle in order to determine the direction of signals. The new system is effective and saves a lot of time.

6 Jan 2015. Ugab River. There is a marked increase in lion movements between the Huab and Ugab Rivers. Several sub-adult lions from the 2012 litters of the two Huab lionesses have settled in the Ugab River. A camera-trap mounted in the Ugab River several months ago has been removed. The “Five Musketeers” killed an adult Hartmann’s zebra in the mountains near Okongwe.

5 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". During the night the “Five Musketeers” started moving southwards back to the Hoanib River. Although they had not eaten for many days, they are in good condition.

4 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". The “Five Musketeers” moved independently of the lionesses for the first time. It is suspected that they responded to the roars of the Okongwe Pride and walked > 22 km into the northern Okongwe Mountains.

3 Jan 2015. Obab Females. Since a satellite collar was fitted to Xpl-45 “Lovechild” of the Obab Pride on 10 Dec 2014, their movements have been most interesting (see map). Over a 20-day period they walked a total distance of 312 km, following a pattern similar to that used by the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and Xpl-77 the Dorob Male “Victor”.

2 Jan 2015. Hoanib Camp. A camera-trap mounted at the waterhole near the Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp is collecting valuable monitoring data.

1 Jan 2015. New Year. The Obab lionesses have remained in the Uniab dunes close to the coast. Their movements are being monitored.

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31 Dec 2014. Events of 2014. The year was dominated by a number of key events that had an impact on the lion population. The killing of Xpl-73 “Rosh” and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was a setback not only to the lions, but also to the conservation and tourism efforts in the region. The natural death of the “Queen” Xpl-10 left a noticeable vacancy. However, the “Five Musketeers” and the three young lionesses of the Obab Pride bring new hope for 2015.


Visitor Map. Summary of visitors to the Desert Lion website since 15 Jan 2013.

Locations of Site Visitors