18 Dec 2014. Illegal Traffic. The full extent of the damage to the sensitive gravel plains in the Skeleton Coast Park, caused by a convoy of seven vehicles and two motorbikes (see 13 Dec 2014 below), has not yet been realised. Whilst monitoring lion movements south of the Hoanib River the off-road tracks of the convoy was discovered at several locations (see photos below). A section of the off-road route driven by the convoy is displayed on the map below (distance = 55.7 km). The convoy camped inside the Skeleton Coast Park on 11 Dec 2014 (see blue dot on map). They used a vehicle to drag large logs to the camp (photo: bottom left) and made a massive fire that was still hot two days later (photo: bottom middle). In consultation with the MET staff at Mowe Bay, efforts are currently underway to rehabilitate some of the tracks.
17 Dec 2014. Dart 3 "Musketeers". The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) were immobilised to lengthen their satellite collars. The satellite collars of all “Five Musketeers” will be replaced with new collars in March 2015. Michael Katjau of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism assisted with the darting and adjustments of the collars (photos: below left & middle).
16 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers-2. The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) that became separated from their brothers killed a smallish prey animal, possibly an Oryx calf, during the night. They are constantly searching for rest of their Pride.
15 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers. Xpl-90 “Polla”, Xpl-91 “Ben and Xpl-93 “Tullamore” separated from their two brothers and the lionesses. The three males are currently south of the Hoanib River inside the Skeleton Coast Park whilst the rest of the Pride is at the mouth of the Hoanib River (photo: bottom).
14 Dec 2014. Caracal. The adult female caracal (Xfc-1) marked with a radio collar was located on the southern side of the Hoanib Floodplain. She is still lactating but her young have not yet been observed. Three of the “Five Musketeers” (Polla, Ben & Tullamore) separated from the rest of the Pride and they are currently north of the Floodplain.
13 Dec 2014. Atrocity. Shocking scenes were witnessed as two motorbikes and seven vehicles entered the Skeleton Coast Park illegally and caused significant destruction to the pristine environment. Whilst observing the Hoanib Floodplain Pride, the convoy was spotted crossing the pink gravel plains north of the Hoanib Floodplain towards Ganias spring. The motorbikes and the vehicles avoided the established road in the Skeleton Cast Park and drove across the virgin plains, leaving scars that will be visible for many decades. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) were contacted immediately via a satellite phone to report the incident. The day was spent tracking the movements of the convoy and standing by to provide support to MET. The convoy of vehicles moved rapidly over the gravel plains and, in spite of the efforts of MET to deploy a helicopter with Police officials from Palmwag, they disappeared in the direction of the Hoaruseb River.
Video clip of vehicles and motorbikes driving off-road in the Skeleton Coast Park.
12 Dec 2014. Hoanib River Flood. The Hoanib River came down in flood during the night. The floodwaters reached the border of the Skeleton Coast Park at 07h15, but it was too weak to reach the Floodplain. Many animals and birds were observed taking a refreshing drink from the unexpected event.
11 Dec 2014. Towards Hunkap. After Xpl-45 recovered from the immobilisation to fit a new satellite collar, the Obab lionesses moved northwards towards the Hunkap River. The Black-backed jackal den north of the Kharugaiseb River is still active and the four pups were observed.
10 Dec 2014. Obab Lionesses. A sub-group of the Obab Pride was observed moving amongst the basalt hills west of the Beacon River. Xpl-45 “Lovechild” (photo: bottom left) was immobilised to replace her faulty satellite collar.
9 Dec 2014. Obab. During the night the Obab lionesses were located in the upper Samanab River. They crossed over into a tributary of the Beacon River where they were observed hunting a small herd of Oryx (photos: top left & right). Several images of an adult male leopard were recorded by a camera-trap at the lower Obab spring.
8 Dec 2014. Oryx. During the night the Floodplain lionesses returned to find the “Five Musketeers” west of Amp’s Poort. They then moved eastwards to the Mudorib River. Many of the Oryx herds are accompanied by neonates and the lions have actively been hunting and catching Oryx calves.
7 Dec 2014. Dust Storm. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” remained apart in the vicinity of Amp’s Poort for another full day. A severe dust storm raged throughout the afternoon that, at times, reduced visibility to a few metres (photo: bottom). The lions and most other wildlife species took cover from the wind wherever they could and there was little activity until long after sunset.
6 Dec 2014. Giraffe Hunters. The “Five Musketeers” are living up to the legacy of the “Queen” Xpl-10. They displayed advanced levels of co-ordinated co-operation, skill and patience during an elaborative hunt on a bull giraffe in the Hoanib River (photos: below).
5 Dec 2014. Hunting. The “Five Musketeers” continued moving on their own along the banks of the Hoanib River. They embarked on a number of opportunistic hunts, but they were unsuccessful (see photos below). The Floodplain lionesses moved northwards along the Tsuxib River and have not yet returned to the males.
4 Dec 2014. Lions at Amp's Poort. At sunrise the Floodplain lionesses left the 5 sub-adult males at Amp’s Poort as they continued hunting for Oryx and giraffes along the Hoanib River. The “Five Musketeers” spent the day on the southern bank of the river where they made several half-hearted hunting attempts on small herds of springboks.
3 Dec 2014. Amp's Poort Clan. The brown hyaena study, led by Emsie Verwey, is producing interesting results. Four den sites for the Amp’s Poort clan have been identified. A one-year old hyaena (photos: top four) is seen regularly at the active den. Xhb-16 “Joey” is the mother of this cub, which is the only survivor from a litter of two. At least four different individual hyaenas have been observed at the den. Photos: middle row by Gudi McRoberts.
2 Dec 2014. Hoanib River. The Floodplain Pride remained close to the lower Hoanib River where large numbers of prey animals concentrate in the riverbed during the day.
1 Dec 2014. Oryx Kill. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” killed an adult Oryx at the break of dawn. Into Nature Productions captured beautiful images as the lions consumed the Oryx carcass in less than two hours. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Lianne & Will Steenkamp of Into Nature for their commitment and dedication to producing a wildlife documentary that will be an authentic depiction of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions.
30 Nov 2014. Black-backed jackals. A den with four small Black-backed jackal pups was discovered north of the Kharugaiseb River. The mother was observed visiting the den and suckling the pups.
29 Nov 2014. Obab Pride. During the night the Obab lions moved towards the Kharugaiseb River. A substantial effort was made to locate them so that a new satellite can be fitted to one of the lionesses, but the terrain was too sensitive and the lions could not be reached.
27/8 Nov 2014. Samanab Dunes. Several lionesses of the Obab Pride were located in the dunes north of the Samanab River. They killed an Oryx calf during the night and were observed hunting an ostrich during the day.
26 Nov 2014. Dunes. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” moved into the dunes north of Auses where they killed an Oryx during the night.
25 Nov 2014. Camera-trap. Many valuable photographs of lions and other carnivores were retrieved from camera-traps in the Mudorib and Hunkap areas.
24 Nov 2014. Hoanib River. After the incident with the para-gliders, the Floodplain lions continued moving during the heat of the day and settled in an inaccessible area north of the Hoanib Floodplain. A presentation on the Desert Lion Project was given to guests of Wilderness Safaris at an outdoor dinner venue on the banks of the Hoanib River (photos: bottom row).
23 Nov 2014. Para-gliders. Three para-gliders are operating in the lower Hoanib area. They circled low over the Floodplain lions, which caused the lions to scatter in all directions. One para-glider then passed low over a brown hyaena den where we were busy with valuable behavioural observations. The brown hyaena cub at the den ran away and observations had to be abandoned. When the para-gliders were approached upon landing, they claimed to be unaware of the disturbance they had caused and agreed not to fly near the hyaena den or in the Skeleton Coast Park. The incident was reported to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism and to the Directorate of Civil Aviation.
22 Nov 2014. Westwards. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” left the Hoanib/Mudorib area and moved westwards towards the Hoanib Floodplain.
21 Nov 2014. Cape Foxes. A camera-trap placed at the den of a Cape fox returned valuable information on the litter size and the age of the pups (see photos below).
20 Nov 2014. Brown Hyaenas. The “Five Musketeers” returned to their giraffe carcass again last night to gnaw on the bones. Four night of monitoring at the giraffe carcass produced interesting data on brown hyaena activities. Six different individual hyaenas were identified and an adult male was fitted with a VHF radio collar (photos: top left & middle).
19 Nov 2014. Clouds. The Floodplain Pride moved to the Mudorib River and they were observed drinking and the “President” waterhole. The past two days was unusually hot and big rainclouds were building in the east during the late afternoons.
18 Nov 2014. Giraffe Carcass. Two nights were spent observing behaviour and interactions at the giraffe carcass. The “Five Musketeers” and two lionesses of the Floodplain Pride consumed the entire adult female giraffe in two nights. Five different brown hyaenas, including Xhb-16 “Joey”, were also observed feeding on the remains.
17 Nov 2014. Whales. A small pod of whales (2 adults and a calf) were observed close to the mouth of the Hoanib River. They appeared to be Humpback whales, but the visibility was poor and several photos (see top right) contained images that could not be identified.
16 Nov 2014. Giraffe Kill. The Floodplain Pride killed a giraffe on the south bank of the Hoanib River. Apart from a bit of disturbance due to a large number of tourist vehicles approaching the carcass to view the lions, they appear calm and relaxed.
15 Nov 2014. Floodplain Lions. After the helicopter departed with the Cineflex camera, time was spent reconciling the amazing events of past few days. The valuable video & image files and observation data were processed and logged. The digital files amounted to a staggering +3 Terra bytes. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were located. They are being observed to determine if the presence of the helicopter during the past few days caused any noticeable disturbance.
14 Nov 2014. Aerial Success. The aerial filming was completed this morning with phenomenal success. The quality and uniqueness of the material recorded surpassed all expectations. Favourable weather conditions during the latter part of the filming and the movements of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride contributed to the success. But, it was the skills of both Jan du Preez (helicopter pilot) and Jonathan Genis (who operated the extraordinary Cineflex camera - one of only four similar units in the world), which made it all possible. **Note: bottom left & right photos were taken at the same time.**
The Desert Lion Project would like to thank the following organisations and individuals for their help in making this such a successful operation: Into Nature Productions (Lianne & Will Steenkamp), Wilderness Safaris (Emsie, Clement, Brecit & Petrus), the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the National Film Commission, Namibia Helicopter Services (Jan du Preez) & Jonathan Genis (Cineflex camera).
13 Nov 2014. Desert Lion Film. With support from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the National Film Commission, IRDNC and Wilderness Safaris, the Desert Lion Project is collaborating with Into Nature Productions to produce an international wildlife documentary on the natural behaviour of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions. The MET staff of the Skeleton Coast Park participated with the aerial filming along the lower Hoanib River.
With support from the major broadcasters (see 12 Nov 2014) a helicopter, equipped with a Cineflex camera, has been commissioned to capture scenic images of the desert environment. These images are essential to reveal the vastness and beauty of the habitat utilised by the lions. The weather conditions improved significantly and spectacular video material was recorded during the past 24 hours.
12 Nov 2014. Aerial Filming. The overcast skies clear up during the night and it provided ideal conditions to utilise an unique opportunity to record the dramatic landscapes of the lower Hoanib River with the aid of advanced technology in cinematography. In collaboration with Into Nature Productions, ORF-Universum, Smithsonian Channel & Arte, the latest Cineflex camera with RED Dragon technology was used to capture the vastness and beauty of the terrain inhabited by the Floodplain lions. More details on this filming initiative will follow.
11 Nov 2014. Cineflex. Overcast conditions hampered the first flight and aerial filming of the granite boulders and gravel plains south of the Hoanib River.
10 Nov 2014. Camera-trap Monitoring. A large number of valuable photos were retrieved from the array of camera-traps along the Hoanib River. The movements of the Floodplain Pride (photo: top left) were confirmed on the Floodplain. There were several interesting images of brown hyaenas, an African wild cat and cheetahs. Including a cheetah that had lost its tail (photo: top right). The helicopter arrived and final preparations are being made for the aerial filming (see 7 Nov 2014).
Visitor Map. Summary of visitors to the Desert Lion website since 15 Jan 2013.