Hoanib River

Dynamic Orphans of the Hoanib Floodplain

The three female cubs that became orphaned at the age of 11 months after their mother (Xpl-55) died on the Hoanib Floodplain, have survived. They found their way through the dune-belt and settled at Oasis spring near the mouth of the Hoanib River.

Here they learnt to catch wetland birds. On several occasions they were observed submerged in the water between the reeds, stalking and catching Cape cormorants, White-breasted cormorants, Red-billed teals and flamingos.

photo - Felix Vallat

In time the three cubs started moving further a field where they captured porcupines in the dunes and hunted for gemsbok amongst the dune hummocks.


During Aug 2017 the three cubs discovered the Cape fur seal colony at Mowe Bay. They visited Mowe Bay station and the seal colony of three occasions and were observed feeding on several seals carcasses.

Shortly afterwards they joined forces with their aunt - the adult lioness, Xpl-69. Two of the cubs, however, returned to the coastal habitat at the mouth of the Hoanib River and continued to focus on catching cormorants and other wetland birds.


Early in Feb 2017 the two young lionesses captured a gemsbok on the gravel plains near the Mowe Bay airfield. A satellite collar was fitted to one of the orphan cubs and their movements are presented for the past six months (see map).

Hunting giraffes – the legacy continues.

One of the three Orphans joined the adult lioness Xpl-69 and they have been frequenting the Hoanib River east of the Floodplain. The remain two Orphans expanded their movements southwards towards Terrace Bay and western section of the Hoanib Floodplain. They visited Mowe Bay on 16/7 Mar 2018 where they fed on a Cape fur seal that they scavenged from a brown hyaena.

Over the years the Hoanib Floodplain pride developed a culture of killing giraffes that started with the old lioness, Xpl-10 “The Queen”. The third Orphan (now just over two years of age) that joined Xpl-69 is already actively pursuing and hunting giraffes along the Hoanib River.

Orphans expand their movements

Two of the Orphan cubs of the Hoanib Floodplain that have been frequenting Oasis spring at the mouth of the Hoanib River have started moving further afield as they are becoming more confident and skilled in hunting for larger animals, such as gemsbok and ostrich. They are now regularly crossing the dune-belt between the coast and the Floodplain (see map below).

Orphan cubs & Floodplain Pride

The Floodplain Pride and the three Orphan females were observed on several occasions. The adult lioness Xpl-69 was located in the lower Hoanib River where she was observed hunting giraffes.

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Two of the Orphan lionesses spent several days at the mouth of the Hoanib River where evidence was found that they killed two Cape fur seals on the beach and dragged the carcasses inland where they were consumed.