Current NEWS

November 2014

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

23 Nov 2014. Para-gliders. Three para-gliders are operating in the lower Hoanib area. They circled low over the Floodplain lions, which caused the lions to scatter in all directions. One para-glider then passed low over a brown hyaena den where we were busy with valuable behavioural observations. The brown hyaena cub at the den ran away and observations had to be abandoned. When the para-gliders were approached upon landing, they claimed to be unaware of the disturbance they had caused and agreed not to fly near the hyaena den or in the Skeleton Coast Park. The incident was reported to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and to the Directorate of Civil Aviation.

22 Nov 2014. Westwards. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” left the Hoanib/Mudorib area and moved westwards towards the Hoanib Floodplain.

21 Nov 2014. Cape Foxes. A camera-trap placed at the den of a Cape fox returned valuable information on the litter size and the age of the pups (see photos below).

20 Nov 2014. Brown Hyaenas. The “Five Musketeers” returned to their giraffe carcass again last night to gnaw on the bones. Four night of monitoring at the giraffe carcass produced interesting data on brown hyaena activities. Six different individual hyaenas were identified and an adult male was fitted with a VHF radio collar (photos: top left & middle).

19 Nov 2014. Clouds. The Floodplain Pride moved to the Mudorib River and they were observed drinking and the “President” waterhole. The past two days was unusually hot and big rainclouds were building in the east during the late afternoons.

18 Nov 2014. Giraffe Carcass. Two nights were spent observing behaviour and interactions at the giraffe carcass. The “Five Musketeers” and two lionesses of the Floodplain Pride consumed the entire adult female giraffe in two nights. Five different brown hyaenas, including Xhb-16 “Joey”, were also observed feeding on the remains.

17 Nov 2014. Whales. A small pod of whales (2 adults and a calf) were observed close to the mouth of the Hoanib River. They appeared to be Humpback whales, but the visibility was poor and several photos (see top right) contained images that could not be identified.

16 Nov 2014. Giraffe Kill. The Floodplain Pride killed a giraffe on the south bank of the Hoanib River. Apart from a bit of disturbance due to a large number of tourist vehicles approaching the carcass to view the lions, they appear calm and relaxed.

15 Nov 2014. Floodplain Lions. After the helicopter departed with the Cineflex camera, time was spent reconciling the amazing events of past few days. The valuable video & image files and observation data were processed and logged. The digital files amounted to a staggering +3 Terra bytes. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were located. They are being observed to determine if the presence of the helicopter during the past few days caused any noticeable disturbance.

14 Nov 2014. Aerial Success. The aerial filming was completed this morning with phenomenal success. The quality and uniqueness of the material recorded surpassed all expectations. Favourable weather conditions during the latter part of the filming and the movements of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride contributed to the success. But, it was the skills of both Jan du Preez (helicopter pilot) and Jonathan Genis (who operated the extraordinary Cineflex camera - one of only four similar units in the world), which made it all possible. **Note: bottom left & right photos were taken at the same time.**

The Desert Lion Project would like to thank the following organisations and individuals for their help in making this such a successful operation: Into Nature Productions (Lianne & Will Steenkamp), Wilderness Safaris (Emsie, Clement, Brecit & Petrus), the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the National Film Commission, Namibia Helicopter Services (Jan du Preez) & Jonathan Genis (Cineflex camera).

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13 Nov 2014. Desert Lion Film. With support from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the National Film Commission, IRDNC and Wilderness Safaris, the Desert Lion Project is collaborating with Into Nature Productions to produce an international wildlife documentary on the natural behaviour of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions. The MET staff of the Skeleton Coast Park participated with the aerial filming along the lower Hoanib River.

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With support from the major broadcasters (see 12 Nov 2014) a helicopter, equipped with a Cineflex camera, has been commissioned to capture scenic images of the desert environment. These images are essential to reveal the vastness and beauty of the habitat utilised by the lions. The weather conditions improved significantly and spectacular video material was recorded during the past 24 hours.

12 Nov 2014. Aerial Filming. The overcast skies clear up during the night and it provided ideal conditions to utilise an unique opportunity to record the dramatic landscapes of the lower Hoanib River with the aid of advanced technology in cinematography. In collaboration with Into Nature Productions, ORF-Universum, Smithsonian Channel & Arte, the latest Cineflex camera with RED Dragon technology was used to capture the vastness and beauty of the terrain inhabited by the Floodplain lions. More details on this filming initiative will follow.

11 Nov 2014. Cineflex. Overcast conditions hampered the first flight and aerial filming of the granite boulders and gravel plains south of the Hoanib River.

10 Nov 2014. Camera-trap Monitoring. A large number of valuable photos were retrieved from the array of camera-traps along the Hoanib River. The movements of the Floodplain Pride (photo: top left) were confirmed on the Floodplain. There were several interesting images of brown hyaenas, an African wild cat and cheetahs. Including a cheetah that had lost its tail (photo: top right). The helicopter arrived and final preparations are being made for the aerial filming (see 7 Nov 2014).

9 Nov 2014. Road Kill. An adult brown hyaena carcass was found next to the main road south of Ugab Gate. A reconstruction of the tracks and signs suggests that a vehicle collided with the hyaena approximately one week ago. This is the second brown hyaenas mortality in the same area during the past eight months. A request will be submitted to the Roads Authority and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism for the erection of Advanced Warning Signs to alert vehicles traveling along this section of the Dorob and Skeleton Coast Parks. The Brown Hyaena Research Project initiated the development of unique warning road signs for brown hyaenas in the Luderitz area (photo: bottom right).

8 Nov 2014. Rain Drops. High clouds covered a large section of the northern Namib and light showers were recorded during the night and early this morning along the Skeleton Coast.

7 Nov 2014. Aerial Filming. Preparations are underway to conduct aerial filming using a gyro-stabilised high-definition Cineflex camera.

5/6 Nov 2014. Land Cruiser. Swakop Body Works attended to the research vehicle for a few minor repairs and modifications.

4 Nov 2014. The Story of Xpl-68. Data analysis and a compilation of all available information are underway to produce a publication on the life-story of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68).

3 Nov 2014. Smaller Carnivores. Baseline data on the distribution and density of other carnivore species have been recorded in the study area for the past 16 years. With the increase in tourism activities in the lower Hoanib River and the implementation of a systematic monitoring system by Wilderness Safaris, it was decided to collect more detailed information on their ecology. A basic VHF radio collar was fitted to a caracal and to a Cape fox (photos below). Both individuals were lactating females. Their movements and activities are being monitored.

2 Nov 2014. Honey Badger. The “Five Musketeers” of the Floodplain Pride killed an adult honey badger. Initially the five young males were merely inquisitive, but when the brave and desperate badger started attacking them, they became aggressive and killed it.

1 Nov 2014. Okongwe Mortality. A young lioness of the Okongwe Pride, to whom a new satellite collar was fitted on 13 Aug 2014, died of unknown causes. She was last observed in the Okongwe Mountains on 18 Oct 2014. The location data received from the satellite collar showed that she was still alive on the morning of 23 Oct 2014 before the collar stopped transmitting. Three days later (26 Oct 2014) the carcass of the lioness was found at the same location of the last transmission by the satellite collar (photos below). The collar could not be located. This was reported to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the incident is currently being investigated. Desert Elephant Conservation and Wildness Safaris are thanked for their help.

31 Oct 2014. Oryx Predation. Following the good rains of the 2013/4 season there is currently an abundance of Oryx neonates in the lower Hoanib River. The Floodplain Pride killed another juvenile Oryx yesterday.

30 Oct 2014. "Musketeers". The five sub-adult males of the Floodplain Pride are still with their mothers. They have remained with the Pride longer than expected. The males have benefited from this time and they are now hunting actively with the lionesses.

29 Oct 2014. Research Permission. The Desert Lion Project has now received official approval from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism to continue with the research project. An open line of communications has been established and we feel that the process will lead to a beneficial collaboration in the future. The Floodplain lionesses are still with the “Five Musketeers” and several successful hunts on Oryx were observed during the past weeks.

26 Oct 2014. Serious Conflict. A group of four lions from the Aub River / Etendeka area caused problems in the Otjihavera area by killing at least two cattle. To protect their livestock, the local community responded by attempting to shoot the lions. It is reported that some of the lions were wounded and that the lions then attacked the people. Two persons were injured and have been admitted to hospital. The report furthermore suggests that there may still be a wounded lion or lions in the area. The Ministry Of Environment & Tourism and members of IRDNC are believed to be investigating the report. Desert Lion Conservation still awaits permission to continue with the Project and can unfortunately not provide assistance or information that may help solve the problem.

13 Oct 2014. Spotted hyaenas. A group of four spotted hyaenas killed an adult male Oryx 5 km south of Amp’s Poort (photos: top row). This is an unusual observation because spotted hyaenas do not usually occur this far west. Single animals occasionally move through the area, but groups and active hunting have not previously been recorded. The Oryx carcass was also visited by an adult Verreaux’s (Black) eagle that scavenged on the remains (photos: bottom row).

9 Oct 2014. Camera-trap Images. During the past week a total of 24,623 camera-trap photos were downloaded, edited and logged in the camera-trap photographic database. Some of the striking and unique photographs are presented below.

7 Oct 2014. Monitoring. The Desert Lion Project is patiently waiting for the official research permit conditions before active fieldwork can continue. In the meantime basic monitoring of the lion population has continued. The extensive network of camera-traps, in particular, has been valuable to ensure continuity of the long-term monitoring process (see photos: bottom two rows).

1 Oct 2014. Explanation. The death of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) on 24 Aug 2014 generated a lot of reaction from the general public and the local authorities. Unfortunately the incident also stimulated polarised viewpoints and criticism between the various parties involved. The Desert Lion Project have accepted the criticism against the research project, such as poor communications and the need to provide the Ministry of Environment & Tourism with preferential information, especially during key events such as the shooting of Xpl-68. As a sign of our commitment and willingness to work closely with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the communal conservancies, we have honoured the process by not posting regular website updates until such time as the official research permit conditions have been issued.

13 Sep 2014. Male Lion. A young adult male lion was observed west of Twee Palms along the Uniab River (photos below by Ursula van Zyl). A positive Identification of the male was not possible due to the low-light conditions. The deaths of the only two adult male lions in the northern section of the population (Hoanib & Hoaruseb Rivers) during the past three months have created a vacuum that should attract young adult males. Several lionesses in both the Okongwe and Floodplain Prides have recently been in oestrous and they will be looking for adult males in order to mate and produce cubs. Simon van Zyl (of CPP) sponsored two new tires for the research vehicle. TrenTyre in Walvis Bay fitted the tires and also donated a steel rim as a third spare wheel. Fieldwork will hopefully continue soon

12 Sep 2014. "Geronimo". Xpl-79 “Geronimo” was observed by Boas Hambo near Otjomumbonde on the eastern edge of the Grootberg escarpment. Xpl-79 was in the company of an adult lioness, but it was not possible to identify her (photos below by B Hambo). This is an important observation as it is the first record of Xpl-79 this far east of the Palmwag tourism concession.

11 Sep 2014. Camera-trap Summary. During the past 6 years (since August 2008) camera-traps were mounted at 38 key locations in the study area to monitor the movements of lions (see map below). A total of 58,038 photographs have been collected. The images contain valuable information and a photographic database was developed. Below is a list of the species / category and the number of images. The data are available to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism or any other registered research/conservation project.

Category

No. of photos

Elephant

1324

Giraffe

6664

Oryx

12867

Springbok

6528

Hartmann's zebra

8265

Ostrich

2660

Kudu

193

Other species

1352

Vehicles/People

1986

Category

No. of photos

Lion

1356

Leopard

471

Cheetah

358

Brown hyaena

7663

Spotted hyaena

1050

Jackal

1839

Honey badger

131

Other cat species

238

Other carnivores

456

10 Sep 2014. HIT RADIO. Mr Wilfried Hahner for Hit Radio, Namibia, initiated a fundraising campaign associated with World Lion Day on 10 Aug 2014. The response from the general public in Namibia and abroad was amazing and a total of N$51,000 was raised in support of the Desert Lion Project. During a meeting and interview (see link) with Mr Hahner at the Hit Radio studios in Windhoek on 5 Sep 2014 the funds were presented to the Desert Lion Project. We thank Wilfried Hahner and all the supporters for this generous donation. The funds will be used to replace the satellite collar of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) that was burnt (see 27 Aug 2014).

9 Sep 2014. Recent Developments. The Desert Lion Project travelled to Windhoek for a meeting with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism on 5 Sep 2014. The future of the Desert Lion Project was discussed with emphases on improved and more regular communications by the Desert Lion Project as well as the value of the Project to MET, the Skeleton Coast Park and the conservation / Human Wildlife Conflict efforts in the region. The Desert Lion Project will continue as soon as a research permit with new conditions that meet the needs and expectations of MET has been issued. The Desert Lion Project is committed to this process and trust that the research and monitoring will continue shortly.

1 Sep 2014. Desert Lion Project on Hold. The Desert Lion Conservation project has been put on hold temporarily to address a number of administrative and logistical problems.

31 Aug 2014. Lost Musketeer. Xpl-90 “Polla” spent almost two days lying mainly on the crests of high dunes (see satellite images below) where he probably became separated from the rest of the Pride. He fortunately started moving towards the Floodplain early this morning where he is more likely to meet up with his pride. The BFG Mud Terrain tires have become worn due to the rough terrain over the past seven months and punctures are becoming a regular event. A total of 38 “plugs” were used yesterday to repair sidewall cuts (photo: top & below right).

30 Aug 2014. Iconic Terrace. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was a remarkable lion. With the aid of new technology, like satellite radio collars, we had a window of opportunity to learn a vast amount about lions that live in an extreme environment. We may not yet understand the significance of his activities and behaviour, but it certainly changed our views on lion movements and social dynamics. Importantly, the information also helped us to appreciate the variability and complexities of lion behaviour ecology. Xpl-68 carried a satellite collar for 762 days and 12,265 location data points were recorded. During this period he moved over an area of 40,081 sqr km, including a trip into Angola (see map below). He walked 12,838 km at a phenomenal average of 17.1 km per day. He regularly walked more than 50 km per day with a maximum of 71.2 km. These statistics exceed all known records of lion movements anywhere in Africa by a significant margin.

29 Aug 2014. Xpl-90 "Polla". The missing “Musketeer” (Xpl-90 “Polla”) is still in the dunes south of Oasis spring (photo: below left). His movements, based on the location data from his satellite collar, suggest that he is not injured and that he is searching for the rest of the pride. His current location is not accessible by vehicle, but as soon as he moves out of the dune belt and the sensitive gravel plains, an effort will be made to locate and observe him. The rest of the Floodplain Pride moved through the Hoanib Camp at 04h30 (photo: below middle) and settled north of Amp’s Poort for the day. Xpl-90 “Polla” and the rest of the Floodplain Pride are 35 km apart. The data related to the death of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) were analysed and a report was written to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.

28 Aug 2014. Information on Xpl-68. The day was spent reconstructing the events that unfolded during the killing of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) by systematically following the tracks of the lion and other related activities. An autopsy was also performed on the decomposed carcass of Xpl-68. The conclusion is that the lion was shot and that he died quickly after a bullet entered his heart. A detailed analysis of the findings and a summary of all the data collected on Xpl-68 will be compiled and presented to the local authorities and to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism. The Floodplain females and the “Musketeers” returned from their visit to the coastal habitat, but one of the “Five Musketeers” stayed behind. Xpl-90 “Polla” became separated from the group and he is still in the dune belt south of Oasis spring.

27 Aug 2014. The Terrace Male is Dead. The Desert Lion Project is sad to report that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was killed near Tomakas village sometime after midday on 24 Aug 2014. Xpl-68 was with the Okongwe lionesses when the incident occurred. Data from their satellite collars show that the Okongwe females immediately moved into the northern Okongwe Mountains – possibly due to the disturbance caused by the killing of Xpl-68. Furthermore, the satellite collar of Xpl-68 was removed and burnt. The charred remains of the satellite collar were located +-100 metres north of the carcass (photo: top right). It would appear that the people responsible for killing the “Terrace Male” wanted to hide the evidence. This is an unfortunate development because the incident could stimulate a public outcry that may question many fundamental aspects of the conservation, communal conservancy and tourism efforts in the Region.

26 Aug 2014. Concern for “Terrace Male”. The satellite collar of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is still not transmitting any new information. Although the Okongwe lionesses moved deeper into the mountains there is real concern as to why the satellite collar of Xpl-68 suddenly stopped working. Two vehicles are currently en route to his last location to investigate the cause of the problem. The Floodplain Pride spent the day at Oasis spring and then moved 15 km southwards during the night.

 

 

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