Current NEWS

February 2016

Daily Lion Movements (go to Current Locations. OR Huab Pride / Hunkap Pride / Obab Lionesses / Hoanib Pride) & Weekly NEWS updates

11 Feb 2016. Sesfontein - NEWS Flash. New positions from the satellite collar of Xpl-81 became available that show how he turned around and headed back to Sesfontein. The situation will be investigated.

11 Feb 2016. Sesfontein. During the night the Orowau male, Xpl-81 “Kebbel”, moved past Warmquelle and close to Sesfontein before heading in a southerly direction back towards Orowau. Reports were received that two donkeys were killed in that area. The movement of Xpl-81 will be monitored closely.

10 Feb 2016. Progress. The on-going experiment to deter the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) from approaching settlements and killing livestock was met with another success when the males were displaced from Tomakas and the Gomatum River on 6/7 Feb 2016 (see below). They continued moving past the Okongwe waterhole towards the Hoanib River despite the fact that the two Okongwe lionesses returned to the Gomatum River. The floodwaters along the lower Hoanib River have left large pools of water dammed up against the dunes (photos: below).

9 Feb 2016. Hoanib Mouth. The Hoanib River floodwaters at the beginning of Feb 2016 were supplemented by a second flash flood that rapidly filled the Floodplain and broke through the dunes to the ocean (photos: top row). The Hoanib Floodplain will not be accessible by vehicle for the next few months. The rain and floods have attracted numerous birds of prey to the area, such as the Osprey and African Hawk Eagle (photos: bottom row). The “Five Musketeers” have moved back to the safety of the Okongwe waterhole. Due to the wet conditions, the two Hoanib Floodplain Pride lionesses and the four small cubs could not yet be located.

8 Feb 2016. Okongwe. The Okongwe lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” continued through the mountains and they reached the plains around the Okongwe waterhole early this morning. It is unlikely that they will return to the Tomakas during the next few days.

7 Feb 2016. Tomakas Problem Solved. After two nights of intensive action and monitoring the “Five Musketeers” and two Okongwe lionesses were displaced from Tomakas and the Gomatum River without the loss of any livestock. This was a team effort with Emsie Vervey relaying hourly position coordinates of the lions via satellite SMS to the ground teams throughout the night. The Purros Lion Rangers with Pollen of Okahirongo Elephant Lodge and their vehicle (photos: bottom left & middle) were key to the success.

6 Feb 2016. "Musketeers" vs Okongwe Lionesses. The “Five Musketeers” and the Okongwe lionesses were successfully prevented from approaching Tomakas Village (approximately 150 head of cattle) and a second settlement 10km further west along the Gomatum River (+- 250 cattle and donkeys). On seven occasions between 21h00 and 08h30 this morning, whenever the lions descended from the safety of the mountains, they were disturbed with loud noises, whistles, fireworks and bright lights. This was a collaborative effort with help from Wilderness Safaris, Okahirongo Elephant Lodge and the Purros Conservancy (including the three Lion Rangers – Colin Albertus & Kotie). Over the years the Okongwe lionesses have learnt to live close to people and livestock. They are skittish and avoid people and vehicles. Male lions that have joined them in the past did not have those skills and were shot. Well known examples are Xpl-56 (14 -18 Nov 2010), Xpl-73 “Rosh” (3 July 2014) and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68 – 27/28 Aug 2014). Despite the success of last night, the “Five Musketeers” remain at risk.

5 Feb 2016. "Musketeers" at Tomakas. During the night the “Five Musketeers” presumably followed the Okongwe lionesses as they moved 20 km over the mountains to Tomakas. At 04hh00 they were on the plains near the village where they presumably killed livestock. At sunrise they moved back to the safety of the mountains. Efforts are underway to deter them from approaching the village and livestock again tonight.

1 Feb 2016. Land Cruiser Repaired. The Land Cruiser was finally fully repaired by Alfons Motors in Swakopmund. The front differential, diff-lock system and the rear suspension were repaired with assistance from Off-Road Centre. The “Five Musketeers” are still in the southern section of the Okongwe area (map: below right).

Xpl-103 “Tina” and her two siblings of the Hoanib Pride have been observed several times during the past week near the main Mudorib spring (photos below by Lianne). They are in good condition and they have become more relaxed around vehicles.

29 Jan 2016. "Muketeers Mating". The “Five Musketeers” have spent the past week in the Okongwe area where they have encountered the last two remaining lionesses of the Okongwe Pride (previously known as the “70s Lionesses). Both lionesses are in oestrous they are currently and mating with the five males (photos by Lianne).

28 Jan 2016. Land Cruiser. After a brief period in the field the Land Cruiser was returned for further repairs.

20 Jan 2016. Land Cruiser. The field vehicle is still being repaired in Walvis Bay. It is expected to be ready for fieldwork within in the next two days.

11 Jan 2016. Four Floodplain Cubs. Xpl-55 was observed on the Hoanib Floodplain with her four small cubs (photos below by Lianne). The cubs are six weeks old.

09 Jan 2016. Floodplain Cubs. The two Floodplain lionesses killed an Oryx along the southern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. Xpl-55 stashed her four cubs in a thicket nearby. One of the small cubs was observed and identified as a female. Photo below courtesy of Hoanib Camp.

08 Jan 2016. Floodplain Cubs. The lioness Xpl-55 was observed on the southern edge of the floodplain with four small cubs.

05 Jan 2016. Vehicle Repairs. The Land Cruiser was delivered to Indongo Toyota in Walvis Bay for a major service and repairs. Fieldwork is expected to continue by mid Jan 2016.

2015. Highlights of 2015

January - The month was dominated by the biggest flash flood that the Hoanib River has seen for almost a decade. February - The Orowau males (Xpl-81 “Kebbel” & Xpl-87) were involved in a number of incidents of Human-Lion conflict.
March - New satellite collars were fitted to all five of the “Musketeers”. April - The Obab lionesses established themselves at the Uniab Delta and were observed regularly along the coast.
May - The “Five Musketeers” visited the dunes and coastal habitat several times before they dispersed from their natal pride. June - During an inexplicable event Xpl-75 “Angela” of the Huab Pride lost her satellite collar. She was eventually located and a new collar was fitted.
July - The “Vanishing Kings” documentary was premiered in Windhoek, Swakopmund and during a “Road Show” in the Kunene Region. August - The Ugab Pride moved to the mouth of the Ugab River for the first time in more that twenty years.
September - The “Five Musketeers” connected and mated with both lionesses of the Hoanib Pride and they discovered the Hunkap spring. October - A large influx of cattle in the upper Hoanib area resulted in conflict. The “Five Musketeers” killed a cow on the Giribis Plain.
November - The Human-Lion conflict incidents of October continued and resulted in the death of Xpl-47 “Bianca” of the Hoanib Pride. December - The Hoanib Floodplain lioness (Xpl-55) gave birth to a litter of cubs close to Auses spring.

3 Jan 2016. Uniab Delta. The Obab Lionesses arrived at the Uniab Delta last night. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and Namibia Wildlife Resorts were informed of the development.

Week 4: 22 - 31 December 2015

The “Five Musketeers” spent five days in the lower Hoanib River feeding on the adult male giraffe that they captured just inside the Skeleton Coast Park. Thereafter they moved up-river to the Obias junction before heading southwards towards the Hunkap area. The five males were observed hunting Hartmann’s zebras in the mountains at the main Mudorib spring. Their movements overlapped with that of the Hoanib lioness (Xpl-59 “E=MC^2), but they did not meet up.
The Uniab Delta lionesses have spent the past two months in the Koigab / Springbok Rivers. On 27 Dec 2015 they moved northwards to the Agab River (where Xpl-45 “Lovechild” was born) and continued westwards following the Uniab River towards the Uniab Delta. Following an incident of human-lion conflict at Slangpos where two lions were shot, the Huab lioness (Xpl-75 “Angela”) vacated the area and moved to the Ugab River.
Interesting and valuable data on the behaviour and population demography of brown hyaenas were collected at the remains of the adult male giraffe carcass that was killed by the “Five Musketeers”. One new individual was identified and photographed. An adult male brown hyaena that has been recorded on the Floodplain (“Rudi”) was observed at the Cape fur seal colony at Mowe Bay (photo: below right).
The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-55) has returned regularly to her cubs that she kept inside a thick Tamarisk bush at Auses spring. Her sister (Xpl-69) also appeared to be pregnant and may have given birth in the same area. Some sections of the Floodplain is still not accessible by vehicle after the flash flood of 9 Dec 2015. Both lionesses crossed the dune-belt to the coast where they remained for two days before returning to the Floodplain.

Week 3: 15 - 21 December 2015

The recent rains along the coast and the flooding of the Hoanib River on 10 Dec 2015 caused most of the ungulates to leave the lower Hoanib area in search of green grass elsewhere. The Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-55) with her small cubs at Auses spring was forced to move further afield in search of prey (photos). Due to the floods the Hoanib Floodplain is not yet accessible by vehicle.
Valuable observations were made possible on brown hyaenas that scavenged on carcasses in the lower Hoanib River. The hyaenas were observed at 3 springboks killed by cheetahs, an ostrich killed by a leopard and an adult giraffe killed by lions.
The “Five Musketeers” returned to the Hoanib River. On 17 Dec 2015 they moved northwards along the Obias River towards the Giribis plains where there were large numbers of livestock. During the night of 17/18 Dec 2015, fireworks were used to prevent them from approaching the area utilised by the cattle. The lions returned to the safety of the Hoanib River and they moved westwards to the border of the Skeleton Coast Park.
The Hoanib Pride lioness (Xpl-59 “E=MC^2) was observed in the area between the Ganamub and Obias Rivers. She avoided contact with both the “Five Musketeers” and the three sub-adults (Xpl-103 “Tina” & co.) of her previous litter. It is likely that she is pregnant and preparing to give birth following her copulating with the “Five Musketeers” approximately 3 months ago.
After being deterred from moving towards the Giribis plains and the inevitable conflict with local communities and their cattle, the “Five Musketeers” returned to the Hoanib River. The five males had not eaten for > 8 days as they moved westwards towards the Hoanib Floodplain. Shortly after midnight on 18 Dec 2015 they killed an adult male giraffe on the gravel plains just inside the Skeleton Coast Park.
An authority on the insects of Southern Africa, Prof Erik Holm, visited the Hoanib River during the past week (photos: right & below left). Prof Holm provided valuable information on the Tabanidae family of flies that bite and annoy lions when they guard their kills on the sand and gravel plains. During observations at the giraffe carcass the flies were particularly bad and they drove some of the lions (e.g. Xpl-92 “Adolf) to search for comfort in a nearby Acacia tree (photos: below).

Week 2: 8 - 14 December 2015

The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-55) killed an adult Oryx at Auses spring. Her cubs are still hidden inside a Tamarisk thicket close to the spring. The lioness guarded the Oryx carcass throughout the heat of the day in an effort to keep the crows and other scavengers at bay. She returned regularly to the lair to suckle and attend to her cubs.
An aircraft spotted a beached humpback whale just north of the Hoanib River. The report was investigated and biological data were collected. The whale measured 9 metres in length. Scavengers, such as jackals and brown hyaenas, have been feeding on the carcass.
The Hunkap Pride and members of the Orowau Pride were located and observed briefly in the upper Mudorib tributaries. Valuable data were collected on the vibrissae spot patterns of several sub-adult lionesses.
The first flash flood of the season in the Hoanib River occurred on 9 Dec 2015. The floodwaters extended deep into the Floodplain and were supplemented by a second flood during the afternoon on 10 Dec 2015. By midday on 12 Dec 2015 the riverbed started drying up and became accessible by vehicle.
The clouds and rainfall in the area resulted in unusual and beautiful scenery (photos: right & below).
The adult male of the Orowau Pride (Xpl-81 “Kebbel”) was observed at night in the upper Mudorib River. Several photographs of Xpl-81 and the “Five Musketeers” were captured by the array of camera-traps in the Hunkap and Mudorib Rivers.
Xpl-103 “Tina” is ALIVE! Many days of systematically searching the area between Okongwe and Hunkap spring was awarded when the radio signal of Xpl-103 “Little Tina” was picked up in the mountains northeast of Mudorib spring. She and her two siblings miraculously survived the incidents of human-lion conflict in the upper Obias River where their mother (Xpl-47 “Bianca”) was killed. As a result they have become extremely skittish and ran from the vehicle at a distance of > 300 metres.
During the past week the “Five Musketeers” have remained together whilst they explored the Hunkap area. They moved into sections of the upper Hunkap River as well as several of the upper Mudorib tributaries. During this period they also interacted with the three sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride (Xpl-103 “Tina” & co.). They have now returned to the Hoanib River and started moving towards the Ganamub / Elephant Song area. Their movement are being monitored.
After the adult male leopard (Xpp-1) was fitted with a satellite collar he left the Hoanib River and moved to the Hunkap area. Over the two-week period he walked > 70 km. On 13 Dec 2015 he killed an adult female ostrich. During the night two brown hyaenas also visited the carcass. The leopard defended the carcass against the hyaenas, but they had several opportunities to feed when the leopard rested some distance away from the carcass.

10 Dec 2015. Hoanib Floods. The Hoanib River came down in flood during the early morning hours on 9 Dec 2015. The floodwaters reached the middle of the Hoanib Floodplain when the water levels subsided. In an effort to reach the Mudorib River earlier today the research vehicle became bogged down in the mud. With assistance from Wilderness Safaris the vehicle was freed from the river - just in time before a second flash flood arrived at 15h00.

Week 1: 1 - 7 December 2015

The annual research report was completed and submitted to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism along with an application to renew the current research permit. The results from the report will be posted on this website once the Ministry of Environment & Tourism has had time to review the report.
The “Five Musketeers” remained together during the past week. They moved to the Hunkap spring and spent a few days in the upper Hunkap and Mudorib Rivers. During a few brief observations it was recorded that they captured an adult Hartmann’s zebra and a giraffe.
Several wear-and-tear problems developed with the research vehicle during the week. Of the eight new Cooper tires that were sponsored by Cymot, Namibia & Cooper Tires in February 2015, there are currently only three serviceable tires after 20,250 km in the rough conditions. An aluminium rim (that was issued with the vehicle) disintegrated on a rocky track south of the Hoanib River (photo: left). The CV-joints on the front axle, the universal joints on the rear driveshaft and several rear spring blades need to be replaced.
The adult male leopard (Xpp-1) that was fitted with a satellite collar on 30 Nov 2015 remained in the Hoanib River for three days. The leopard then moved > 30 km during the next four days and he is currently 12 km northwest of Hunkap spring.
The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-55) gave birth on the Hoanib Floodplain close to Auses spring. The cubs are not yet mobile and are hidden in a thicket. Xpl-55 killed an ostrich in the dunes and she returned regularly to suckle her cubs.
The Uniab Delta Pride (also known as the Obab Lionesses) was located in the Koigab River. The four lionesses are in good condition. They have spent the past few weeks in the Koigab and Springbok Rivers where they have been successful in capturing Hartmann’s zebras and Oryx.
A small thermal image camera attached to an iPad has been used effectively to observe lions at night in the upper Obab River (photos: right).
The original Obab Pride (incl. Xpl-49 & Xpl-84) were located and observed north of the Uniab River close to Salvadora spring. The tracks of an adult male was also observed, but the male could not be located.

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