Current NEWS

May 2016

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

1 May 2016. Safety. The areas surrounding the course of the 4 Deserts Race are being scanned continuously for signs of lion movements. There are approximately 25 lions (8 with radio collars) from four prides/groups that occasionally utilise the area around the 750 km course (photo below: the Obab Pride on 23 Mar 2016). The chances of lions moving through this area during the next seven days are slim, but precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the athletes.

30 Apr 2016. Searching. The lower sections of the Huab, Koigab and Uniab Rivers, where the 4 Deserts Race will take place are being scanned systematically for signs of recent lion activities.

29 Apr 2016. 4 Deserts Race. Attention has now been turned to the 4 Desert Race that starts at the Huab Mouth on 1 May 2016. The Land Cruiser is still driving only with its front axle, which has been challenging in the dunes.

28 Apr 2016. Okongwe Success. The “Five Musketeers” killed an adult female Hartmann’s zebra near the Okongwe waterhole. They had full bellies and were observed drinking at the waterhole.

Xpl-89 "Harry" Xpl-90 "Polla" Xpl-91 "Ben"
Xpl-92 "Adolf" Xpl-93 "Tullamore" Xpl-89 "Harry" & Xpl-90 "Polla"

27 Apr 2016. Okongwe Waterhole. During the night the “Five Musketeers” continued moving westwards and they arrived at the Okongwe waterhole at 03h00 this morning (photos below).

26 Apr 2016. Lions return to Okongwe. After 20 days in the hills east of Tomakas the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) finally returned to the safety of the Okongwe Mountains. During the night they attempted to approach the livestock grazing on the plains around Tomakas village (see map below: red arrow), but a display of fireworks and sound playbacks caused them to move further south (blue arrow) and into the Okongwe Mountains. During this period the “Five Musketeers” did not kill any livestock.

24/25 Apr 2016. Return to Tomakas. The five male lions “Musketeers” moved out of the hills east of Tomakas and there was a risk that they will approach the village. Fireworks and sound playbacks were used during the night to keep them at bay.

23 Apr 2016. Mechanical Problems. The research vehicle developed a problem with its rear axle during the night. The rear drive shaft and side-shaft was removed (photo: below right). The vehicle is now being driven out of the mountainous terrain east of Tomakas using only the front axle.

23 Apr 2016. Tomakas. The five adult males “Musketeers” were located in the mountains to the east of Tomakas. Although the lions are close (< 6 km) to the livestock of Tomakas village they have remained in the mountains and have not killed any livestock.

22 Apr 2016. Small Cubs. The Floodplain Pride was observed on the southern bank of the Hoanib River. The three small cubs waited patiently on a rock outcrop whilst the lionesses hunted in the riverbed. They were acutely aware of the activities and responded when the lionesses captured a springbok (photo: below right), but did not move until they were called.

21 Apr 2016. Hoanib Pride. The Hoanib lioness, Xpl-59 “E=MC^2” was found near the Ganamub River and efforts were made to locate the three sub-adult lions (Xpl-103 & co.) that move between the Hoanib and Mudorib Rivers.

20 Apr 2016. Maintenance. Essential repairs and maintenance of the research vehicle and equipment were done. The mountings of the VHF antenna had become unstable due to the constant movement over the rough terrain and it was stabilised temporarily with an additional support structure.

19 Apr 2016. Jackals. The three small cubs copied the Floodplain lionesses by chasing jackals that tried to scavenge from the giraffe carcass. The “Five Musketeers” are still in the hills to the east of Tomakas.

18 Apr 2016. Giraffe Carcass. The Floodplain Pride remained at the giraffe carcass – feeding at night and resting in a nearby cave during the heat of the day.

17 Apr 2016. Floodplain Cubs. The Floodplain lionesses killed an adult female giraffe on the open gravel plains south of the Hoanib River. The three small cubs of Xpl-55 were also present and enjoyed the abundance of food. They were observed climbing deep into the carcass and feeding on the soft meat. They were also inquisitive of the research vehicle and spent hours inspecting the wheels and various attachments (photo: bottom right).

16 Apr 2016. Koigab to Uniab. The areas between the lower Huab, Koigab and Uniab Rivers were surveyed for lion movements in preparation for the 4 Deserts Race (photos below, see 25 Mar & 15 Apr 2016). The “Five Musketeers and Okongwe lionesses are still in the hills east of Tomakas.

14/15 Apr 2016. Huab. The 4 Deserts Race Series (see 25 Mar 2016) starts on 1 May 2016. Monitoring of the area where the race will take place was continued to ensure that all lions that are currently utilising the area are accounted for. Two young male lions from the Ugab Pride visited the mouth of the Ugab River and then moved along the coast towards the Huab River (photos below).

13 Apr 2016. Amazing Tire. The “Five Musketeers” and the Okongwe lionesses have remained near a spring in the hills to the east of Tomakas. The last of the six Cooper S/T Maxx tires that was sponsored by Cymot and Cooper Tires, SA on 9 Feb 2015 has finally reached the end of its life. This was an amazing tire that broke all previous records kept by the Desert Lion Project. It ran non-stop for 28,409 km over the rough terrain condition and had a total of six punctures (photos: below left). The tire was replaced with a new Cooper STT Pro (photo: below right).

11 Apr 2016. Prospects. The five young adult males (“Musketeers”) have temporarily separated from the Okongwe lionesses and they have moved deeper in the broken terrain east of Tomakas. The situation is not ideal, but there is nothing that can be done at this stage. The movements of the lions will be monitored intensively over the next few days. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank IRDNC and Josef Hafyenanye of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism for their efforts.

10 Apr 2016. Good Habitat - Bad Location. Two years ago the Okongwe Lionesses discovered a productive area east of Tomakas (see map below) that consists of broken terrain with several springs that attract healthy numbers of zebras, giraffes and Oryx. The lionesses have led the “Five Musketeers” to this area and for the past two days they have disappeared in the maze of mountains and canyons with no access roads. This is a problematic situation given the close proximity to Tomakas and the livestock.

9 Apr 2016. Cold War. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism, IRDNC and the Desert Lion Project joined forces to prevent further conflict between the livestock farmers at Tomakas and the lions. The “Five Musketeers” and the Okongwe lionesses remained in the hills to the east of Tomakas (see map below) as the “stand-off” continues.

8 Apr 2016. Sunrise. The Okongwe lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” remained in the hills throughout the night. They probably succeeded in capturing a prey animal, such as a Hartmann’s zebra.

7 Apr 2016. Rain. The Okongwe lionesses were determined to move onto the Tomakas plains and 03h00 this morning they succeeded with the “Five Musketeers” following them. The terrain was difficult to navigate at night and it is unsure if the lions killed any livestock. By 05h00 the lions were chased away from the Tomakas village area and they moved into the hills towards the southeast. Rain showers further complicated the work.

5/6 Apr 2016. Tomakas Problems. The “Five Musketeers” followed the Okongwe lionesses to Tomakas where there are currently large numbers of livestock. With the aid of sound playbacks and fireworks the lions were prevented from approaching the livestock on the plains around the village. The efforts were complicated because an unmarked Okongwe lioness had been in the area the previous night and killed a donkey 2 km south of the village.

3 Apr 2016. Leopard. The “Five Musketeers” and the Okongwe lionesses have returned to the Okongwe waterhole. An adult male leopard killed a giraffe calf near the Hoanib River. This marks the third record of a leopard capturing a giraffe calf in the area.

1 Apr 2016. Kill Frequency. The wildlife numbers around Okongwe have dropped substantially as the area has become dry and many animals moved away in search of better grazing. The five adult male lions (“Musketeers”) are struggling to capture sufficient prey animals to satisfy their daily food requirements. The five lions killed an adult male springbok and consumed the entire carcass in 20 minutes (photos below). On average they need to capture an adult Oryx-sized animal every 1.7 – 1.9 days to meet their needs. It is expected that the “Musketeers” should move away from Okongwe quite soon.

31 Mar 2016. Okongwe Lioness. The “Five Musketeers” remained with the two Okongwe females near the Okongwe waterhole. One of the Okongwe lionesses was immobilised and fitted with a new satellite collar.

30 Mar 2016. Okongwe Females. The “Five Musketeers” was joined by two of the Okongwe lionesses during the night. At least one of the lionesses is in oestrous and she was observed mating with the “Musketeers” (photos below).

29 Mar 2016. Hoanib Pride. The last remaining adult lioness of the Hoanib Pride, Xpl-59 “E=MC^2”, was located in the southern section of the Giribis Plains. She was resting in a cave approximately 150 metres from the remains of her sister (Xpl-47 “Bianca”) that was killed during a Human-Lion Conflict incident in early Nov 2015 (see Week 2 of Nov 2015).

28 Mar 2016. Okongwe. After the incident near Purros on 26/7 Mar 2016 the “Five Musketeers” returned to the area around Okongwe waterhole that they have favoured for the past two months. Despite the mountainous terrain tourists have observed the lions on a regular basis – numerous reports have been received from tour operators and private tourists (photo: below right).

27 Mar 2016. Xhb-37. A surprising and unusual sighting of a marked brown hyaena was made early this morning. Photos below by EWV.

27 Mar 2016. Purros Success. At sunset the five adult male lions (the “Musketeers”) continued moving along the valley towards Purros. Several fires were made in a row at the base of the valley in an effort to block their path. When the lion were approximately 2 km from the fires, a series of fireworks (crackers and two small rockets) were deployed. The lions immediately turned around and moved back towards Okongwe waterhole.

26 Mar 2016. Purros. The “Five Musketeers” have moved far north of Okongwe waterhole and if they continue along the valley they will reach Purros tonight. Efforts are underway to deter them from moving to Purros.

25 Mar 2016. 4 Deserts Race. The world’s leading rough-country endurance footrace, the “4 Deserts Race Series”, takes place in Namibia between 1 and 7 May 2016. Assistance was provided to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism with reviewing the selected route for the race. The Desert Lion Project will also be assisting the organisers to ensure the safety of the athletes during the race.

24 Mar 2016. Ugab to Hunkap. The Huab lioness Xpl-75 “Angela” moved to the Ugab River and she was observed at the border of the Skeleton Coast Park before moving in an easterly direction towards Brandberg. Several members of the Hunkap Pride were located in the lower Hunkap River. Data on group structure were collected and individual records were updated.

23 Mar 2016. Satellite Modem. The BGAN satellite IP modem, used to upload website updates and retrieve positions of satellite-collared lions, has developed technical problems. Attempts are underway to repair the problem, but website updates may be delayed during the next few days.

22 Mar 2016. Ugab Lions. The Messum and Ugab Rivers were surveyed for recent lion movements. Several members of the Ugab Pride were located and important data on the individual records and the composition of the group was collected (photo below).

20 Mar 2016. Lions Club. The Lions International Club of Henties Bay - the largest Club in Southern Africa – have decided to support the conservation of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions. A presentation on the research efforts over the past 15 years was delivered to the Club on 19 Mar 2016 (photos below). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Nolene & Pieter Erasmus, Magda du Preez and all the Club members for their enthusiastic support.

19 Mar 2016. Uniab Delta. Two young lionesses of the Obab Pride were observed at the Uniab Delta. During the past week their tracks were followed for many kilometres as they moved between the Koigab River, Springbokwasser and the lower Samanab River. It is suspected that the lionesses also venture into the Torra Conservancy. Efforts are underway to secure funding for a satellite collar that will be fitted to one of the lionesses.

17 Mar 2016. Cheetah. The remaining members of the Hoanib Pride were tracked in the mountainous terrain between Mudorib spring and the Hunkap River. A female cheetah with small cubs, stashed in a rocky outcrop, was observed on the gravel plains (photos below).

16 Mar 2016. Gomatum River-2. The five adult males (“Musketeers”) and two adult lionesses were successfully prevented from entering the Gomatum River and preying on livestock. They are currently a few kilometres north of Okongwe waterhole.

14 Mar 2016. Gomatum River. Last night the “Five Musketeers” walked approximately 30 km from just north of Okongwe waterhole, following a dry riverbed along a deep valley, towards the Gomatum River. They stopped 1.5 km from the Gomatum and a nearby cattle post to rest during the heat of the day (see map below). Efforts will be made tonight to deter the five male lions from entering the Gomatum River and prey on the livestock.

13 Mar 2016. Koigab. The Koigab River and the area up to the Uniab River were surveyed and the tracks of two groups of lions were followed. Two lionesses were observed at a spring close to the dune belt.

12 Mar 2016. Ugib Spring. The Uniab, Koigab and Springbok Rivers were surveyed for recent lion activities. Fresh tracks were found at Wolfwasser spring (photo: top right) and several lionesses of Agab and Obab groups were located and observed.

10 Mar 2016. Hoanib. Rainfall patterns during the past few months have resulted in the dispersal of most of the wildlife. There are few animals in the Hoanib River and most of the elephants are favouring the Hoanib Floodplain. The concentration of wildlife around the Okongwe waterhole has kept the “Five Musketeers” in the area.

9 Mar 2016. Okongwe-2. The Okongwe area was searched for the whereabouts of the Okongwe lionesses. The “Five Musketeers” were observed hunting Oryx and Hartmann’s zebras amongst the rocky ridges to the north of the waterhole (photos: below).

8 Mar 2016. Okongwe. During the past months the five adult males “Five Musketeers” have remained in the Okongwe area. After they were deterred from killing livestock at Tomakas village (see 5-7 Feb 2016) the males have moved over a 370 sqr km area around the Okongwe waterhole (see map below) where they have been feeding on Hartmann’s zebras, giraffes and Oryx. On 6 Feb 2016 the Desert Lion website was “hacked”. The malicious code that redirected traffic to alternative websites for financial gain has now been removed. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Guido Haeger for advice and Luuk Eikelboom for his support.

6 Mar 2016. Fieldwork Continues. The Hoanib River has dried up sufficiently to allow access to parts of the Floodplain and the areas occupied by the Floodplain Pride. All three small cubs of the lioness, Xpl-55, are still alive and they are in good condition.

26 Feb 2016. Huab River. The Huab lioness, Xpl-75 “Angela”, has moved northwards and is currently close to the livestock areas of Slangpos and De Riet. This website might be offline for short period whilst repairing the “hacking” incident.

24 Feb 2016. Website "Hacked". The Desert Lion website has been “hacked”. The problem is receiving attention.

22 Feb 2016. "Musketeers". The five young adult males are still in the Okongwe area, and fortunately they have not moved towards the livestock area to the north.

18 Feb 2016. Fieldwork. Research activities in the field have been stopped in order to attend to a family emergency. The movement updates of satellite-collared lions will continue. The “Five Musketeers” are still in the Okongwe area. Their movements in relation to human settlements and livestock will be monitored closely via satellite.

17 Feb 2016. Floodplain Cubs. The Floodplain lioness, Xpl-55, moved her cubs to the ganite boulders south of the Hoanib River. One of the cubs did not survive, but the remaining three female cubs are healthy and in good condition.

15 Feb 2016. Okongwe / Ganamub. The Okongwe lionesses could not be located due to the mountainous terrain south of the Gomatum River. The “Five Musketeers” have been utilising the area north of Okongwe waterhole (photo: left & top right). The Hoanib lioness Xpl-59 has been favouring the Ganamub River and it is suspected that she gave birth to a litter of cubs. The two Floodplain lionesses were observed in the lower Hoanib River.

13 Feb 2016. Okongwe. The adult male Xpl-81 "Kebbel" responded to disturbance caused by vehicles near Sesfontein and rapidly moved away towards his home range around Orowau. The northern section of the Okongwe area and south of the Gomatum River were search for the Okongwe lionesses. Images from a camera-trap revealed that they visited the Okongwe waterhole three days ago (photos below).

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.

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

Locations of Site Visitors