Current NEWS

August 2014

Lion Movements - go to Current Locations. OR “Terrace Male” / Agab Pride / Huab Pride / Hunkap Pride / Okongwe Pride

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.

25 Aug 2014. Oasis. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” crossed the dunes to the mouth of the Hoanib River. They were located in thick mist resting between the hummocks at Oasis spring. The satellite collar of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) stopped transmitting locations at 12:33 yesterday afternoon. It is possible that Xpl-68 followed the Okongwe lionesses into the narrow gorges of the northern Okongwe Mountains where his collar may not have a clear view of the sky to send the data via satellite. However, there is concern because the last position at 12:33 was not far from the main Giribis road.

22 - 23 Aug 2014. Agab Pride. Xpl-36 “Monica” and other members of the Agab Pride were located in the Springbok River. An effort was made to immobilise Xpl-36 to replace her faulty satellite collar.

21 Aug 2014. Cheetahs. A group of four cheetahs were spotted in the western section of the Hoanib Floodplain. The cheetahs were also captured on one of the camera-traps (see photos below).

20 Aug 2014. Okongwe Water. The “Terrace Male (Xpl-68) drank at the Okongwe waterhole shortly after a single lioness of the Okongwe Pride was photographed (photos: below left & middle). Groups of up to seven spotted hyaenas have been observed in the Okongwe area (see photo: below right).

19 Aug 2014. Whale. A large whale, possibly a Humpback whale, was spotted at the mouth of the Hoanib River. The whale swam in a northerly direction approximately 1 – 2 km offshore and it was also observed passing by Mowe Bay.

18 Aug 2014. Xpl-10's Skeleton. After three months submerged in a water solution, the skeleton of Xpl-10 was removed and inspected. The bones will now be cleaned and the process of reconstructing and mounting the entire skeleton will begin over the next few weeks.

17 Aug 2014. Floodplain Pride. At sunrise this morning he two Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” killed an Oryx south of the Hoanib River. By 10h00 the lions had consumed the entire carcass and they spent the day resting in the shade of the granite boulders.

16 Aug 2014. Replacement for "Rosh". The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has connected the Okongwe Pride and they are currently together on the Giribis Plains. Ever since Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot on 1 July 2014, the “Terrace Male” has been frequenting the area regularly used by Xpl-73 and the Okongwe lionesses. This development unfortunately puts the “Terrace Male” in danger because the Okongwe lions are well adapted to living close to people and their livestock. They are cautious and distrustful of vehicles & people whereas Xpl68 is naïve and oblivious to the dangers. For example, when Xpl-56 (a young male from the Floodplain Pride) joined the Okongwe lionesses in Nov 2010 he was killed near the Tomakas village (see News: 14 - 18 Nov 2010). Management options to prevent conflict and keep the “Terrace Male” out of harms way are now limited due to his association with the Okongwe lions.

15 Aug 2014. Ostriches. Several large groups of ostrich chicks have been observed between the Uniab and Hoaruseb Rivers. The breeding success and survival of the ostrich chicks are probably due to the high rainfall earlier this year. After their encounter with Xpl-68, the Floodplain lions moved back to the Hoanib Floodplain. Whilst the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) returned to the northern section of the Okongwe Mountains and the Okongwe females moved to the western edge of the Giribis Plains.

14 Aug 2014. Zebra Kill. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) killed a Hartmann’s zebra against the slope of a mountain near the Sawarugab River. It is not possible to access the area by vehicle, but the lion was spotted and photographed from a distance of 1.68 km (see photos below).

13 Aug 2014. Dart Okongwe Lioness. An adult lioness of the Okongwe Pride was immobilised and a satellite collar was fitted to replace the previous collar that failed prematurely. The daily movement updates of the Okongwe Pride will now continue. The claw on the third digit of the left back leg of the lioness was deformed (photos: below). This abnormality is possibly the result of an injury that the lioness sustained when she was young.

12 Aug 2014. Okongwe Lions. The tracks of the Okongwe females were followed for 22 km to the Okongwe waterhole and they were resting in a deep rocky gorge during the day. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was captured on a camera-trap at 03h20. He then moved south towards the Floodplain Pride. Both Xpl-68 and the Floodplain lions were roaring and an encounter was inevitable. When Xpl-68 approached the Floodplain lions they all ran away and headed towards the Floodplain. Xpl-68 did not follow them.

11 Aug 2014. Okongwe Pride. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved into a narrow canyon along the southern bank of the Gomatum River and it was not possible to monitor his movements during the day. The high cliffs and rock formations blocked both the VHF transmitter and the GPS/Satellite functions of his radio collar. Fresh tracks of the Okongwe Pride were observed at a weather station on the Giribis plains (photo: bottom right). Their tracks were followed for 6 km in an easterly direction.

10 Aug 2014. Okongwe Menuevers. Monitoring the movements of both the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Floodplain Pride has been challenging in the mountainous terrain of Okongwe and the Gomatum River. The use of an iPad with GIS applications and topographic maps or satellite imagery has been invaluable to navigate between the mountains at night.

9 Aug 2014. Active Waterhole. Both lionesses of the Floodplain Pride are currently in oestrous and they moved towards Okongwe waterhole during the night. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) missed a golden opportunity to meet-up with the lionesses by less than 12 hours because he moved northwards to the Gomatum River whilst the Floodplain lions were approaching from the south. The camera-trap at the Hoanib Camp waterhole have produced valuable photos during the past five days (photos: below), including a collared brown hyena and a collared Cape fox on the same image (photo: bottom left).

8 Aug 2014. Okongwe Mountains 2. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was followed and monitored throughout the night as he moved along narrow valleys to the Okongwe waterhole (photo: left). A new camera-trap was mounted at Okongwe waterhole (photo: middle). The camera was placed inside a protective metal casing because spotted hyaenas and lions have damaged and removed a number of cameras. A Martial eagle was observed along the Okongwe River (photo: right).

7 Aug 2014. Okongwe Mountains. An hypothesis that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has joined-up with the Okongwe lionesses was rejected last night when he was observed in the Okongwe Mountains 9 km south of the Gomatum River. Xpl-68 was alone. The number of lion tracks in the immediate area and the movement patterns of Xpl-68 during the past four days suggest that the lionesses may still be in the vicinity.

6 Aug 2014. Xpl-68. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) left the Gomatum River and during the early morning hours he moved through the mountains towards Okongwe.

5 Aug 2014. Floodplain. All the camera-traps in the Hoanib River and Floodplain were checked and serviced (photos: below). The resident lions have not utilised these areas recently and there were no signs of other lion activities. Based on his movement patterns it is suspected that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is interacting with the Okongwe females. He moved back to the Gomatum River and even though there are currently no livestock in the River, it remains a risky situation because of the proximity of the Purros settlement.

4 Aug 2014. Camera-trap. A new camera-trap was mounted at the Hoanib Camp waterhole. It is envisaged that this camera will remain active on a permanent basis to record long-term data on the animals that utilise the waterhole.

3 Aug 2014. Oryx Kill. The Floodplain Pride, including the “Five Musketeers” killed an adult female Oryx 3 km south of the Hoanib Camp. All the guests were able to view the lions and the opportunity was used as a practical test for the Guides. A meeting was held afterwards with the Guides and Management staff to discuss the mistakes and positive aspects of their approach and viewing of the lions. A presentation on the Desert Lion Project was given to the guests (photo: bottom right).

2 Aug 2014. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. The new Wilderness Safaris “Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp” was officially opened today and the first guests arrived at midday. A wildlife monitoring structure was finalised, maps of the tourism area were drafted, and the training of the Guides and Management staff was finalised. Time was spent assisting with the setup of a radio communications network via a repeater station near Hoanib Camp (photo: bottom right). During the day the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) remained hidden amongst the thick vegetation in the Hoaruseb River north of Purros. After midnight he moved southwards and followed a narrow valley through the mountains towards Okongwe.

1 Aug 2014. Xpl-68. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) left the Okongwe Mountains and moved to the Hoaruseb River to settle in thick vegetation 8 km north of Purros. The Floodplain lions have been spending a lot of time between the granite ridges south of the Hoanib Floodplain (photos: below).

31 Jul 2014. Mountain Lions. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Okongwe lions are still together in the Okongwe Mountains south of the Gomatum River. They are moving along the high mountain ridges at an altitude of 3,800 feet (1,150 m) – this translate to 2,400 feet (730 m) above ground level at the Gomatum River. Last night Xpl-68 moved 5.2 km with altitude fluctuations of >750 feet (230 m).

30 Jul 2014. Rosh's Vacuum. It can be expected amongst social mammals, like lions, that the sudden death or removal of a prominent breeding male will result in unusual movements & behaviour until a new male or coalition of males claim the vacancy. The curious movement patterns of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) during the past month coincide with the shooting of Xpl-73 “Rosh” on 1 Jul 2014. During this period the “Terrace Male” explored some of the core areas utilised by “Rosh”, which he had not ventured into previously. Last night the “Terrace Male” encountered the Okongwe females in the Gomatum River 22 km east of Purros. It was an interaction charged with social conflict and with a lot of roaring. The Okongwe lions and Xpl-68 then moved over the mountains towards Okongwe.

29 Jul 2014. West of Tomakas. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved westwards along the Gomatum River and settled for the day in a narrow valley on the south side of the mountain range (photo: top). The training course held at the new Hoanib Camp was completed (see 24 & 26/27 Jul 2014). Ten staff members completed the course and passed the final examination. The trainees were subjected to a basic-knowledge test at the start of the course where the average score was 55% (see graph: bottom left). At the end of the two days they were given a comprehensive and substantially more difficult test. In this exam the average result was 71% with all ten individuals scoring above 60%.

28 Jul 2014. "Terrace Male" in Danger. During the night Xpl-68 moved through the highest and most rugged of the Okongwe Mountains and was very close to the Tomakas Villages at 02h00 this morning. By 06h30 he had moved a few hundred metres towards the mountains. All available resources have been pooled and a major effort is underway to avoid or limit livestock losses and conflict with the Tomakas community. And to prevent the iconic “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) from being killed.

26/27 Jul 2014. Hoanib Training. During the past two days a training programme was held for the Guides and Management staff of the new Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp of Wilderness Safaris. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was also monitored as he moved through the mountains between the Ganamub River and Okongwe.

25 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 in Obias River. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved northwards along the Obias River. His movements were monitored throughout the night in case he moved to the Tomakas village. Data were collected on the status and condition of the roads around the lower Hoanib River to facilitate in the training programme that starts tomorrow.

24 Jul 2014. Training. A detailed training programme is being prepared for all the new tour guides and managers of the Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp. The training will address the ecology and behaviour of lions and brown hyaenas, collecting systematic data during game drives, and the management of vehicle tracks. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has moved along the Hoanib River towards Elephant Song and may get into contact with livestock and people if he continues.

23 Jul 2014. Salvadora Bush. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) dragged his Oryx carcass inside a thick Salvadora bush on the south bank of the Hoanib River. Several brown hyaenas were observed nearby at sunset (photos below). The Floodplain Pride is currently 14 km to the southwest. The movements of both Xpl-68 and the Floodplain lions are being monitored closely.

22 Jul 2014. "Joey". With the influx of wildlife to the lower Hoanib River the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) succeeded in catching an Oryx on the southern bank of the River just east of the Floodplain. Several brown hyaenas, including the radio-collared female “Joey” (Xhb-16), were observed at the kill (photo: top right).

21 Jul 2014. Hoanib Desert Camp. Monitoring of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) continued and he is still in the lower section of the Hoanib River. Substantial numbers of prey animals, such as Oryx & springbok, have returned to the Hoanib River after they dispersed following the high rainfall earlier in the year. This is good for the lions as they are less likely to move towards human settlements and livestock in their search for food. Building of the new Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is nearing completion. The Hoanib Camp is expected to open on 1 Aug 2014 (photos: bottom row).

20 Jul 2014. Vehicle Repairs. A large section of the internal infrastructure of the Land Cruiser was dismantled to isolate and repair the electrical problem of the solar power system. Notwithstanding, the sound system is still not working and will have to be repaired tomorrow. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Floodplain Pride have moved closer to each other.

19 Jul 2014. Roaring. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved a short distance along the Hoanib River. He was observed roaring often and he will hopefully make contact with the Floodplain Pride.

17/18 Jul 2014. Floodplain Pride. The two Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were located 16 km south west of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68). They were foraging on the gravel plains where there are concentrations of Oryx and springboks. Repairs to the Land Cruiser are still underway.

16 Jul 2014. Xpl-68. Since his translocation to the Hoanib River the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has been kept under observation during the daylight hours. His behaviour is normal and thus far there is no obvious indication that he wants to return to the Purros area. Repairs to the research vehicle were delayed by the monitoring of Xpl-68, but needs to be completed before any serious work can continue.

15 Jul 2014. Repairs. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) recovered fully from the long sedation and translocation from the Gomatum River. Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is thanked for their support and assistance with the monitoring of Xpl-68 during the past week. The rough conditions and extensive use of the specialised equipment on the research vehicle, especially during the last week with Xpl-68 at Purros, resulted in a breakdown of the solar power system and equipment failure. It is essential to the success of the Project that the vehicle and all its equipment function properly, especially in crisis situations. For example, on 14 Jul 2014 when Xpl-68 was darted there was an electrical failure that prevented the use of important equipment, such as the sound system and lights. These problems will have to be repaired in the field during the next few days.

14 Jul 2014. Necessary Action. At sunset the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) came out of the narrow gorge where he spent the day and headed along the Gomatum River straight towards Tomakas village (photo: top right). An anthropomorphic, but all too realistic, view of a “suicide mission” seems appropriate to describe the behaviour and movement patterns of Xpl-68 during the past week. For reasons of human-lion conflict, public safety in the Purros area, and the survival of the “Terrace Male”, it was decided to relocate him to the Hoanib Floodplain. After a seven-hour drive Xpl-68 was release near the Floodplain in a thick blanket of fog at 05h40 this morning (photo: bottom right). By 06h50 he had recovered sufficiently to start feeding on a springbok carcass (photo: bottom left). The “Terrace Male” was immobilised less than 200 metres from the place where Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot.

13 Jul 2014. Gomatum River. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) started moving at dark and reached the Gomatum River at midnight (see top image). He then followed the Gomatum valley in an easterly direction. This was fortunate since the route took him away from a large cattle post south of Purros, but also concerning because he walked past the place where Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot two weeks ago and towards Tomakas where there are large numbers of livestock.

12 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 in Mountains 2. The movements of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) were monitored intensively from a high vantage point using a combination of VHF telemetry, satellite collar locations and the quad-copter. This was necessary because of the lion’s close proximity to the village and cattle posts. Xpl-68 remained inactive until 01h00 when he started moving through the mountains towards the southwest (see bottom image). At 03h00 he changed direction to the east and may have captured a prey animal because he is still in the same position.

11 Jul 2014 11h00. Xpl-68 in Mountains. It would appear that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) made a kill in the mountains 12 km northeast of Purros (map: bottom left). The kill was possibly made at around 04h00 on 10 Jul 2014. At sunrise he left the location (see red X, map: bottom right) and spent the day between the rocks of a high mountain peak. At sunset he returned to the same place and only vacated the area at dawn. This behaviour is somewhat unusual and it can be speculated that he may have been disturbed at the kill during the daylight hours. This area is inaccessible by vehicle, but small groups of Ovahimba pastoralists are known to utilise the area when surface water is available for their livestock. The Purros Conservancy are not aware of the current locations of these families because they are nomadic and live in temporary settlements.

 

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