24 July 2020 – Extreme weather

Thursday 23 July 2020

High winds & sandstorms

The Northern Namib experienced a prolonged period of heat, easterly winds and sandstorms that lasted for days on end. Working under theses conditions has been challenging and exhausting. Even the desert-adapted wildlife species appeared to struggle with the ongoing harsh conditions. Most of the grasses and herbs that germinated after the late rains in April/May 2020 were scorched by the heat and sandstorms.

Sand and dust storms that lasted for several consecutive days

A flock of ostriches bracing gusts of wind during a early-morning sandstorm
A flock of ostriches bracing gusts of wind during a early-morning sandstorm​ A flock of ostriches bracing gusts of wind during a early-morning sandstorm

A small cub trying to drink from her mother that has not eaten recently

Death of Xpl-69

After a comprehensive search effort it was concluded that the three small cubs of Xpl-69 did not survive. The remaining lioness of the Floodplain pride Xpl-114 “Charly” that accompanied Xpl-69, was located and observed. She appeared stressed and moved continuously – presumably searching for Xpl-69. It was decided to postpone darting her, in order to fit a satellite collar, for a week or two until she has settled down.

Xpl-114 “Charly” searching for Xpl-69

Xpl-114 “Charly” during the heat of the day:                        resting briefly and searching for Xpl-69

Xpl-114 “Charly” during the heat of the day​ XlP-114 resting briefly and searching for Xpl-69
 

EW satellite collar fitted

An adult lioness from the central part of the study area was immobilised and fitted with a new Early-warning satellite radio collar.
Adult female lion darted and fitted with new satellite collar
​ 

 

Coastal lion activities

Two lionesses have continued to forage along the coastline. They favoured the north-central part of the Skeleton Coast National Park and were observed feeding on an adult Cape fur seal and a Greater flamingo.

Two lionesses resting on Salsola hummocks
​Two lionesses resting on Salsola hummocks

 

Bond between lionesses

An old lioness who was first recorded as a small cub in early 2006 was observed near Hunkap spring. The 15-year old lioness was in remarkably good condition. She was in the company of two of her daughters, aged 8 and 10 years respectively. There is a tight bond between the lionesses as can be seen by the enthusiastic grooming between the old lioness and her 10-year old daughter.

Fifteen-year old lioness
Fifteen-year old lioness

Three pride lionesses aged 15, 10 and 8 years respectively
Three pride lionesses aged 15, 10 and 8 years respectively

Grooming between a 15-year old lioness and her 10-year old daughter

 

Small pride

An adult male lion was tracked in the northern part of the study area where he joined a small pride of lionesses and cubs. Due to the scarcity of prey the lions were located in an area outside their normal home range. During the night the lions were observed feeding on the remains of a gemsbok that they captured in a rocky gorge.

Adult male lion resting in a drainage line during thew day
Adult male lion resting in a drainage line during thew day

Lions feeding on a gemsbok carcass

 

Breaching whale

A small pod of 3–5 Humpback whales were spotted near the mouth of the Hoanib river. An adult whale was observed breaching on four occasions as the whales moved in a northerly direction.
Humback whale breaching along the Skeleton Coast
Humback whale breaching along the Skeleton Coast​ Humback whale breaching along the Skeleton Coast

Humback whale breaching along the Skeleton Coast​ Humback whale breaching along the Skeleton Coast