NEWS 2008 (Sep - Dec)

22 Dec 2008: Updates. New images and information is available on GPS collars - Hoaruseb Pride and Remote Camera Trap.

20 Dec 2008: Extensive rain. Widespread rains between 8 and 16 December resulted in flooding of the Hoanib and Hoaruseb Rivers, and most of their major tributaries.

5 Dec 2008: Agab Pride revisited. After the darting of Xpl-48, the Agab group was tracked down and observed for 16 hours. Their behaviour was normal and there were no signs of disturbance that may have been caused by the darting.

3/4 Dec 2008: Dynamic Obab lionesses. Four lionesses, a sub-group from the Agab/Uniab Pride, have been living in the lower Uniab River and Urunedis, Beacon and Obab tributaries for the past 14 months. The group consists of Xpl-22 (the sister of “Miles”), Xpl-45 and two young lionesses. They were observed for 36 hours when an interesting hunt on an ostrich was recorded.

1-4 Dec 2008: Observations on Agab lions. Several small groups of lions in the Agab and lower Uniab Rivers were observed to collect data on group structures and behaviour

2 Dec 2008: Training Course. After discussions with Chris Bakkes & Emsie Verwey of Wilderness Safaris, some weeks ago, a training course on approaching and viewing lions for tourism was held at Rhino Camp. Guides and Camp Managers from Palmwag, Rhino Camp and Damaraland Camp attended the course.

1 Dec 2008: Radio-collar sub-adult male. A three-year old male from the Agab Pride was immobilised, marked and fitted with a radio collar. Xpl-48 was born at the end of 2005 (the son of Xpl-18) and it is expected that he may disperse within the next 6 months. The staff of Rhino Camp, Wilderness Safaris, assisted with the darting, and for many of them it was their first close-up experience with a lion.

Rhino Camp Staff with the lion (photo: E Verwey)
Doris Murangi helping with the teeth (C Bakkes)
Emsie Verwey recording data (photo: C Bakkes)

30 Nov 2008: New synchronised animation. Between 17 and 23 November 2008, Xpl-3 moved north to the Hoaruseb River. The movements of Xpl-3 and Xpl-44 were synchronised in an animation to determine if they interacted. See X3-vs-X44 to view the animations.

29 Nov 2008: Hobatere. Attempts to dart Xpl-20, currently resident on Hobatere Lodge, failed because the lions moved into rocky terrain after a recent shower of rain, and could not be approached by vehicle.

26 Nov 2008: Photos from tourist. Ms Silva Daus, of Germany, kindly sent these photos, taken during their visit to the Skeleton Coast in Septemner 2008. More photos can be viewed under Cruiser.

26 Nov 2008: Updates. New information is available on GPS collars (Hoaruseb and Hoanib male) and Remote Camera Trap.

25 Nov 2008: Weaning of the cubs. The Hoaruseb cubs have entered a new facet of their lives as the lionesses finally stopped suckling them. The cubs are challenging the weaning process, but Tawny (Xpl-38), mother of the two older cubs, is enforcing the new rule with controlled aggression (notice her facial expression in the two photos below - bottom right). Fortunately, large numbers of oryx have now started utilising the Hoaruseb River to drink and feed on the green vegetation. The lions have been able to catch prey regularly and they are all in good condition.

22 Nov 2008: Further Notice. The problems of updating this website with the new BGAN satellite IP modem has not yet been solved. The Technical Support Unit of Stratos Global is currently assisting me to try and locate and rectify the problem.

21 Nov 2008: Vehicle problems in the dunes. Whilst following the lions into the dunes in the lower Hoaruseb River, the Cruiser unexpectedly ran out of fuel. On the third day of being stranded, Wilderness Safaris came to the rescue.

18 Nov 2008: Notice. During the past two weeks, since using the new BGAN satellite IP modem, I have not been able to update the website regularly. The problem appears to be using FTP over the BGAN system.

18 Nov 2008: Hoaruseb observations continue. The situation in the Hoaruseb River is more complex (re: News report of 16 Nov 2008) and detailed observations have continued. The lionesses are hunting actively during the heat of the day, expending a lot of energy, without any returns thus far. Xpl-38, and possibly also Xpl-37, appeared to have stopped lactating, and neither lionesses allowed the cubs to suckle during the past 12 hours.

17 Nov 2008: Hoaruseb cubs. Despite a few scars, visible on “Tan” and “Crimson”, the cubs are in good condition.

15 Nov 2008: Hagar's new occupants. When the new Land Cruiser developed a problem with its fuel pump a few weeks ago and needed a major service, it was decided to call Hagar back into action. But on arrival at Wereldsend the plan was abandoned because a pair of Mountain chats had moved in, built their nest on the top shelve, and were feeding three chicks.

16 Nov 2008: Conditions improving for Hoaruseb lions. On returning from the Hoanib, the Hoaruseb lions were observed for 24 hours. The lionesses hunted relentlessly, throughout the day, and they appear to be coping with the difficult conditions.

14 Nov 2008: Satellite collar on Hoanib male. “Adolf” (Xpl-3) was darted at Auses in the Hoanib Floodplain and fitted with the Satellite GPS collar, originally on “Miles” (Xpl-16) in the Ugab River (top row photos by Laura Brown). See Hoanib Male for details.

11 Nov 2008: Dart lioness in Hoanib. Xpl-47 (Bianca) was located at the Ganamub Poort (Hoanib River) and the latest data from her GPS collar, downloaded. She was in the company of 4 lionesses & 7 cubs, and efforts were made to dart one of the unmarked lionesses to fit a radio collar. The lions were extremely skittish, possibly as a result of conflict with livestock farmers, and remained hidden in thick vegetation. The prospects of darting one of the lionesses seemed unlikely, but on the second night an opportunity presented itself as a lioness moved past a small opening in the vegetation. Not having had a clear view of the lioness, a split-second decision had to be made and the dart was fired. Unfortunately – against the odds of 1/5 – the lioness turned out to be Xpl-47. The opportunity was used well, however, by collecting blood samples, teeth and body measurement, and inspecting the GPS collar (Photos: middel by Felix Vappat, right by Tina Vinjevoldt).

Rare daytime sighting of a Hoanib lioness
Nathalie Cadot monitoring the pulse of Xpl-47
Nathalie, Felix & Mary Lou - DL Safari

9 Nov 2008: Hoanib lions & DLS. The third Desert Lion Safari (9-12 Nov'08), with Russel Vinjevold, is being combined with the monitoring of lions in the Hoanib River. The goals for the fieldwork are a) to locate Xpl-3 & Xpl-47 and download the GPS data, b) to dart and radio collar an adult female from the Hoanib/Hunkab pride, and c) to fit the satellite GPS collar (originally fitted to Xpl-16 “Miles” - see details) to Xpl-3 “Adolf”. Surprisingly, the DLS tour-group was made up of Namibian residents, involved in tourism and conservation. Nathalie Cadot (NACOMA), Felix Vallat (Tourmaline Safaris & travel consultant) and Mary Lou Aceizo (freelance tour-guide) are French-speaking residents with a long-term involvement and passion for wildlife in Namibia.

8 Nov 2008: Lions loose condition. The Hoaruseb lions were located in the River, near the Amp’s Poort road. The numbers of wildlife utilising the riverbed remains low and the lionesses have lost condition during the past week. They are still lactating and the lack of a regular and reliable food source is taking its toll. Although the condition of the cubs has not deteriorated - they are still suckling - they have clearly not had a good meal for several days. The male (Xpl-44) stayed with the cubs whilst the lionesses were hunting.

8 Nov 2008: New - Remote Camera Trap Images. A new page that contains interesting and unique photos captured by the remote cameras can be viewed (click here).

6 Nov 2008: Land Cruiser to Swakopmund. The new Land Cruiser received its second major service at Steckel’s Toyota in Swakopmund. Mr Riaan van Rhyn and the maintenance staff of Steckel’s Toyota went out of their way to attend to the Cruiser and they are thanked for their efforts.

Thanks to Dunlop >>

The Cooper tires that came with the Cruiser have been outstanding during the fieldwork. But the intensity of the work and the rough terrain during the past four months (15,000 km of off-road driving and 4x4 tracks, see Land Cruiser Report) took its toll and two of the tires were damaged beyond repair. Whilst in Swakopmund, I called Johann Viljoen, of 1st Alignment Centre, for advice. Johann made contact with the Dunlop officials (including Mr. Tony Coetzee) and within an hour informed me that Dunlop agreed to sponsor two new Cooper tires for the Cruiser. Mr Eddie Holloway of the Dunlop branch in Swakopmund supplied and fitted the new tires.

5 Nov 2008: GPS animation updates. New movement animations are available for Xpl-44 (Hoaruseb Pride) & Xpl-3 (Hoanib Male).

4 Nov 2008: Video clips. New video clips of the Hoaruseb lions can be viewed under Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs. The video clip (below) contains footage of a scorpion filmed under UV light at Werteldsend.

Video clip: (00'11 / 184 Kb)

(Download QuickTime to view video)

2 Nov 2008: Land Cruiser Report. View report on the use and activities of the Cruiser between 1 July and 31 October 2008.

1 Nov 2008: GPS animation updates. New movement animations are available for Xpl-47 ("Bianca" - Hoanib/Hunkap Pride).

29 Oct 2008: Photos from the Amp’s Poort camera trap. Moved to Remote Camera Trap Images.

27 Oct 2008: Early rain. The new Land Cruiser has been fantastic over the past three months. When unusually early rains were encountered in the Springbok River, it was great to be able to close the windows and the shutters to avoid the equipment from getting wet.

25 - 28 Oct 2008: Ugab killer. As part of the second Desert Lion Safari (with Russell Vinjevold) four days were spent tracking lions in the area around the Springbok River. The goal was to fit a GPS radio collar to any of the elusive Springbok lions. Surprisingly, one of the two male lions that killed “Miles” (Xpl-16) in the Ugab Rivedr during mid-Aug 2008, was located moving past Wereldsend towards the Agab River (see photos below).

24 Oct 2008: GPS animation updates. New movement animations are available for Xpl-3 ("Adolf" - Hoanib Male)
and for Xpl-47 ("Bianca" - Hoanib/Hunkap Pride).

24 Oct 2008: Back to the Hoaruseb. After consuming the oryx carcasse the lionesses and cubs returned to the Hoaruseb River, where they met up with the male (Xpl-44). Despite being well fed the lionesses still hunted at every opportunity. See Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs for more images.

23 Oct 2008: Second remote camera trap. Moved to Remote Camera Trap Images.

21 - 22 Oct 2008: Towards the Khumib– Part 2. The Hoaruseb lionesses hunted amongst the broken hills and gravel plains leading up to the Khumib River. During the night of 21 Oct 2008 as they lay on a high ridge, scanning the area for prey, the lights of Wilderness Safaris Skeleton Coast Camp were visible in the distance. Later that night they killed an adult female oryx in a narrow gulley. Both lionesses walked 17 km back to the Hoaruseb to collect the cubs and then returned to the oryx. See Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs for more images.

20 Oct 2008: Towards the Khumib. For more than 72 hours the lionesses hunted (day and night) in the lower part of the Hoaruseb River, but had nothing to show for their efforts. They stashed the cubs and ventured north towards the Khumib River. This is a new & significant development; for it is an area that neither they, nor their mother (Xpl-10), have previously explored or utilised. Also see GPS collar - Hoaruseb Pride for latest animation.

18 - 21 Oct 2008: Hoaruseb. The Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs were located at the Clay Castles and behavioural observations continued. The lions are in good condition, but wildlife numbers remain low in the River and Xpl-37 & 38 have to work hard to provide enough food for themselves and the cubs. They are constantly on the lookout for prey and hunt throughout the day. See Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs for more images.

17 Oct 2008: Hoanib dunes. Xpl-3 joined the Hoanib Floodplain Pride (Xpl-10, Xpl-25 and five sub-adults) in the dunes just east of Krans (river-water trapped in the dunes - photo). This sizable group of eight lions approached the campsite of Alwyn Engelbrecht (Warden of SCP) and Dr Etienne Bruwer late at night. They lay on a dune watching the activities for a while, and then left undetected. The coastal habitat between the Hoanib and Hoaruseb Rivers were surveyed and several signs of lion activities during the past month were recorded.

16 Oct 2008: Remote camera trap. Two days ago a parcel that contained a donation from Naples Zoo in Florida, USA, reached me in the desert. Mr David Tetzlaff, the Executive Director of Naples Zoo, learnt about the Project during a recent visit to Namibia and decided to make a donation. The Funding section of this website provided sufficient information for Mr Tetzlaff to purchase two Cuddeback remote cameras needed for the research. See Sponsors and Budgets for recent updates. Photos moved to Remote Camera Trap Images.

14 - 17 Oct 2008: Xpl-3 in the lower Hoanib River. The Hoanib River was searched thoroughly to locate Xpl-3 (“Adolf”). He was finally tracked down near the Mudorib junction at 23:30 on 15 Oct 2008. Several attempts to download data from his GPS collar failed because he was moving westward at a rapid pace. When he passed through the narrow gorge at Amp’s Poort, I was able to get ahead and “ambush” him. At 04:30, close to the border of the Skeleton Coast Park, a UHF link between his collar and the computer was established, as he moved towards the vehicle, and the GPS data were downloaded (see extensive updates: GPS collars). "Adolf" continued moving westward, through the floodplain, and disappeared into the dunes towards the coast at 04:30 on 17 Oct 2008.

9 - 10 Oct 2008: Cape fur seal. The lions reached the coast shortly after midnight, after numerous unsuccessful hunts, and continued moving along the beach in a southerly direction. A remarkable event was observed at 04:00; they spotted a Cape fur seal lying on the sand close to the edge of the water. Xpl-38 fanned out to the left and Xpl-37 stalked towards the seal, hugging the edge of the surf. She rushed up and grabbed it. There was quite a commotion (it was difficult to see what was happening in the darkness), but she suddenly let go of the seal and it made for the water. Xpl-38 then rushed into the water and grabbed the seal, but she too backed off suddenly. The seal must have bitten her during their skirmish in the surf (1 – 2 feet of water) because she had bleeding wounds (albeit superficial) on her leg and torso. Both lionesses walked up and down that section of the beach for a while, looking for the seal.

Remarkable co-operative hunting. The two Hoaruseb lionesses hunted actively in the dunes to the north and south of the Hoaruseb River and a number of hunts on springbok and oryx were observed. The Flash animation (below) gives an accurate reconstruction of a hunt on a small group of oryx in the Hoaruseb River. The stalking roles and co-ordinated movements of the two lionesses are represented by the red dots. The duration of the hunt was 42 minutes and the distance covered by Xpl-37 (the lioness on the right wing) was 3.2 km.

If you click on any of the yellow numbers (below) you can view a photo taken at that point.

8 Oct 2008: Hoaruseb cubs. During the past three months (up until this evening) the Hoaruseb cubs have been observed for 1012 hours. Apart from the ecological and behavioural data collected, the time also served as an investment towards future tourism in the Hoaruseb River. Unlike most other lions in the Desert population, which are weary and shy away from vehicles, these cubs are essentially growing up alongside the research vehicle. They are learning to accept and trust vehicles, which will be of great benefit to the tourism ventures in the Hoaruseb area. Move your mouse over the photo to see the cubs play. More images can be viewed at Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs.

8 Oct 2008: Sand dunes. On several occasions (mostly at night) the Hoaruseb lions were observed climbing to the top of a sand dune (estimated 200 feet), walking along the crest of the dune, and then sliding down the slip-face. The cubs, in particular, appeared the have a lot of fun and played on thedunes for hours. Can you spot the lion on the dune (photo far right)? Move your mouse over the photo to see if you were right.

Can you spot the lion?

7 Oct 2008: Rock lions. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

5 -6 Oct 2008: Desert lions. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

3 Oct 2008: Lions kill brown hyaena. The Hoaruseb lionesses stashed their cubs in a reed thicket and went hunting. When they returned, a few hours later, a brown hyaena was prowling around the thicket. The lionesses stalked towards the hyaena and after a short chase caught it. The male lion (Xpl-44) ran up and killed the hyaena. From the tracks it looked like there had been an interaction between the hyaena and the cubs, but all three cubs were still alive. The stripes on the forelegs of brown hyaenas are like fingerprints - each individual is different. The hyaena was a female, between 3 and 4years old, and belonged to the Hoaruseb Mouth Clan. I have seen and photographed her on several occasions during the past 2 years.

2 -4 Oct 2008: Hoaruseb lionesses heading for the sea. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

1 - 2 Oct 2008: Routine monitoring. During routine monitoring of lion movements near the coastline, I found fresh spoor of a male lion at Scott Bridge in the Huab River, located Xpl-45 and her sister near the mouth of the Uniab River, and observed Xpl-10 and 25 at Auses in the Hoanib Floodplain.

29 Sep 2008: Rising sea levels? Driving down the coastline to monitor lion movements, it was noticeable that there was extensive flooding during the recent full moon (spring-tide). In several places the seawater flooded large areas and even submerged the main road between Swakopmund and Terrace Bay.

28 Sep 2008: Lions return to Hoaruseb River. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

27 Sep 2008: Movie-night in Purros. As part of the lion eco-tourism training programme, the Purros community was treated to a night at the movies. With the help of the “Lion Officers” we erected a big screen at the Headman’s house, used a small generator to power a projector, and rigged the lion speaker for sound. By nightfall the entire village (+ 50 people) had gathered at the venue. Some were huddled around small fires and the children settled with a few blankets in one corner. Bertus Uararavi, one of the “Lion Officers” and driver of the Lion Car, and I presented the community with a short talk and slideshow on the Desert Lion Project. Thereafter we showed them the BBC “Desert Lions” film. Many of the people present featured in the film and this generated roars of laughter. The community seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the film and I was amazed by their reaction to some scenesin the film. All aspects of lion behaviour, especially hunting and playing, generated interest and the scenes of lions attacking their donkeys were met with amusement.

25 Sep 2008: Hoanib lioness "Bianca" found. After darting and fitting a GPS radio collar to Xpl-47 (a lioness from the Hoanib/Hunkap Pride) in May 2008, she disappeared. I was beginning to fear that she might have been shot and the collar destroyed – an occurrence that was common during the 1980s. Much was my relief when, on the second day of searching, I picked up a signal from her radio collar at 23h12 on 24 Sep 2008. She was busy hunting in the mountains to the south of the Hoanib River. I struggled for many hours to get close enough to her (about 500 metres) to establish a communication link (UHF) between her GPS collar and my computer, in order to download the movement data. At 13h58 on 25 Sep 2008, once she had settled down and was resting in a cave, could I finally get a stable connection and was able to download 3442 data points on her hourly movement patterns for the past 5 months. See GPS Collars – Hoanib/Hunkap Pride.

24 - 25 Sep 2008: Searching for Hoanib lions. An extensive search for the Hoanib lions followed after receiving a report from Henk & Anita Schoeman (Skeleton Coast Fly-in Safaris). From their aircraft they spotted a lioness (or a cheetah) under a tree near Okongwe, and provided me with accurate GPS co-ordinates of the position. I used the opportunity as a practical training exercise for the Purros “Lion Officers” on spoor identification and tracking. We were able to confirm that the animal Anita Schoeman saw was, in fact, a big male cheetah. Thereafter I continued on to the Hoanib River in search of the two lions (Xpl-3 & Xpl-47) fitted with GPS radio-collars.

23 Sep 2008: Surf & Turf. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

21 Sep 2008: Lion vehicle for Purros Conservancy. The Purros Lion Eco-tourism initiative has attracted much support and funding, mainly from IRDNC and WWF LIFE. The Purros Conservancy received a Toyota Hilux to assist them with the monitoring of the Hoaruseb lions, managing Human Lion Conflicts and developing Lion Eco-tourism. WWF LIFE provided most of the funding for the “Lion Car” and Chris Weaver is thanked for his efforts. Training of the "Lion Officers" (Wagga Tjiraso, Bertus Uararavi & Steven Uararavi) has continued.

19 Sep 2008: More on the shooting of Xpl-17. A few days ago I was informed that the Namibian (a local daily newspaper) published an article, or letter from an authoritative source, stating that the lioness that was shot at Bergsig (Xpl-17) was very old, that her teeth were worn-down and could therefore not fend for herself, and that she was a threat to the Bergsig community. Unfortunately I have not been able to read the article. Notwithstanding, I feel there is a need to comment on the inaccuracies of the information. There is no question that Xpl-17 killed livestock and as a result became a threat to the Bergsig community. But the shooting of Xpl-17 cannot be justified by the inaccurate information on the status of her teeth and the incorrect assumption that she was past her prime and unable to hunt. Not considering the facts that: a) she had dependant young, b) she was one of four lions recently fitted with GPS radio collars, c) she was one of the most habituated lions for tourism, d) she was regularly seen by tourists staying at Rhino Camp(Wilderness Safaris), and e) I was on the scene, monitoring her movements for five nights prior to the shooting, and that I had proposed to immobilise and translocate her, in order to relieve the problem. See GPS collars - Uniab Pride for more details.

19 Sep 2008: Feldspar plains. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

17 Sep 2008: Hoaruseb lions move out of River. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

12 Sep 2008: Hoaruseb lionesses successful. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

11 Sep 2008: Babysitter. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

10 Sep 2008: Hoaruseb lionesses struggling. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

9 Sep 2008: New web page for Hoaruseb lions. A new Page dedicated to the Hoaruseb lionesses and cubs has been added. Visit this link for regular updates, photos and video clips.

7 Sep 2008: Hoaruseb lions stretched. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

5 Sep 2008: Hoaruseb lions disappear. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

5 Sep 2008: Video clip of Hoaruseb cubs. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

3 Sep 2008: Spiny lesson. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

2 Sep 2008: Night observations. Moved to Hoaruseb females & cubs.

31 Aug 2008: Return to Hoaruseb. I left the Hoaruseb lions 17 days ago when the mortality alarm of the satellite GPS collar was triggered. The lion eco-tourism training with the Purros Conservancy and the monitoring of the Hoaruseb lions were abandoned, without warning or notification due to the problems connecting to the Internet. An immediate response to the mortality alarm, however, was crucial, and fitting a GPS collar to the new lions was equally important to the study. Updates have been posted on the GPS collar movement animations for the Hoaruseb and Hoanib males.

The scenery on the drive from the Ugab to the Hoaruseb River.

Older entries for 2008 can be viewed under Early 2008