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