Current NEWS

January 2015

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

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.

30 Dec 2014. Uniab Lions. Monitoring of the Obab lionesses in the dunes of the lower Uniab River was complicated by strong winds and unusual weather conditions (see photo below). The Floodplain Pride reached the Okongwe River and they remained in the vicinity of the Okongwe waterhole during the day.

29 Dec 2014. Uniab Dunes. The Obab females hunted for Oryx in the dunes a few kilometres east of the Uniab Delta. Based on their movements and the number of Pied crows that were present it is suspected that the lionesses were successful during the night. Due to the high dunes, the lions could unfortunately not be reached by vehicle.

28 Dec 2014. "Lovechild". Xpl-45 “Lovechild” and her three daughters were observed moving amongst in the dunes near the Uniab Delta. They have come close to finding the springs and the abundant prey (see 27 Dec 2014). The “Five Musketeers” were reunited with the lionesses and they have moved towards Okongwe.

27 Dec 2014. Obab Lions. After the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was shot, lions have not yet returned to the Uniab Delta. Some of the Obab lionesses have been frequenting the lower Uniab River and they may soon discover the rich food source of Oryx that utilise the springs scattered along the Delta. The lower Uniab area was searched for lion tracks and a sub-group of the Obab Pride was located in the dunes south of the Uniab River (photo: bottom right).

26 Dec 2014. Oryx Kill. The two Floodplain lionesses separated from the “Five Musketeers” and moved 20 km to the north where they killed an adult male Oryx. The “Five Musketeers” remained in the Hoanib River where large numbers of wildlife return daily to feed on the green vegetation.

25 Dec 2014. Tourism Value. Large numbers of tourists have enjoyed spectacular sightings of the Floodplain Pride and the “Five Musketeers” in the lower Hoanib River during the past year. The Desert Lion Project and Into Nature Productions have made a concerted effort to facilitate the viewing of the lions and to promote the tourism potential of lions in the Hoanib area. Unfortunately the irresponsible and selfish behaviour of some tourists and even established tour-guides have recently resulted in significant disturbances to the lions that prevented many other visitors from observing them. There appears to be a need to provide guidelines to tourists on how to approach lions.

24 Dec 2014. Camera Traps. Joshua Kazeurua of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, supported by the Namibian Police, came to investigate the activities of a convoy of vehicles and motorbikes that illegally entered the Skeleton Coast Park (photo: top right, also see 13 & 18 Dec 2014). A donation of five new camera-traps with specially designed protective housings was received from Martin Schmidt (photo: bottom right).

23 Dec 2014. "Vanishing Kings" Video Clip. An unofficial version of the "Vanishing Kings" promotional video has leaked onto the Internet and social media. Into Nature Productions are collaborating with the Desert Lion Project to produce a wildlife documentary on the behaviour of the desert-adapted lions (see 13 Nov 2014 for details). The Floodplain Pride were reunited during the night and moved eastwards along the Hoanib River.

22 Dec 2014. Floodplain Split. The two sub-groups of the Floodplain Pride moved closer to each other during the night. Xpl-55 with two “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 & 92) walked from the western edge of the Floodplain to within 3 km of the second group (Xpl-69 with 3 “Musketeers”) that are amongst the granite boulders south of the Hoanib River. They are expected to meet-up this evening.

21 Dec 2014. Two Groups. The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-69) met up with the three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93). Against all expectations they did not return to the rest of the pride that are still feeding on a carcass on the edge of the dune-belt (photo: top). Instead they moved to the southeast of the Floodplain (photo: bottom). This is the first known occasion of the Floodplain Pride forming separate sub-groups with an adult present in both groups.

20 Dec 2014. Xpl-69. The Floodplain lionesses crossed the dune-belt from the coast to the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. It is suspected that they killed a large prey animal in an inaccessible area because they have not moved since yesterday evening. During the night one of the lionesses (Xpl-69) walked approximately 17 km to find the three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) that stayed behind on the Floodplain.

19 Dec 2014. Dune Crossing. At dawn the Floodplain lionesses and two of the “Musketeers” (“Adolf” & “Harry”) were observed crossing over the dunes from the coast to the Hoanib Floodplain.

18 Dec 2014. Illegal Traffic. The full extent of the damage to the sensitive gravel plains in the Skeleton Coast Park, caused by a convoy of seven vehicles and two motorbikes (see 13 Dec 2014 below), has not yet been realised. Whilst monitoring lion movements south of the Hoanib River the off-road tracks of the convoy was discovered at several locations (see photos below). A section of the off-road route driven by the convoy is displayed on the map below (distance = 55.7 km). The convoy camped inside the Skeleton Coast Park on 11 Dec 2014 (see blue dot on map). They used a vehicle to drag large logs to the camp (photo: bottom left) and made a massive fire that was still hot two days later (photo: bottom middle). In consultation with the MET staff at Mowe Bay, efforts are currently underway to rehabilitate some of the tracks.

17 Dec 2014. Dart 3 "Musketeers". The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) were immobilised to lengthen their satellite collars. The satellite collars of all “Five Musketeers” will be replaced with new collars in March 2015. Michael Katjau of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism assisted with the darting and adjustments of the collars (photos: below left & middle).

16 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers-2. The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) that became separated from their brothers killed a smallish prey animal, possibly an Oryx calf, during the night. They are constantly searching for rest of their Pride.

15 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers. Xpl-90 “Polla”, Xpl-91 “Ben and Xpl-93 “Tullamore” separated from their two brothers and the lionesses. The three males are currently south of the Hoanib River inside the Skeleton Coast Park whilst the rest of the Pride is at the mouth of the Hoanib River (photo: bottom).

14 Dec 2014. Caracal. The adult female caracal (Xfc-1) marked with a radio collar was located on the southern side of the Hoanib Floodplain. She is still lactating but her young have not yet been observed. Three of the “Five Musketeers” (Polla, Ben & Tullamore) separated from the rest of the Pride and they are currently north of the Floodplain.


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