NEWS 2009


October 2009

31 Oct 2009. 5 km west of Purros. The Hoaruseb lions have spent the past 36 hours approximately 5 km west of Purros. The male (Xpl-44) joined them at 05h00 this morning. The lionesses killed a juvenile oryx at 14h27, and they consumed the carcass in 38 minutes.

30 Oct 2009. Lions leave Purros. The Hoaruseb lionesses and large cubs spent the whole night moving and resting near the Purros village. Finally, shortly after sunrise this morning, they decided to move on. They followed the Hoaruseb River towards the west.

29 Oct 2009. More drama at Purros. The lions spent the whole night feeding on the donkey. By daylight, the carcass had been consumed and they moved into the Tamarisk thickets for the day. The Purros community kept their livestock, especially the cattle, well away from the area where the lions were resting. However, at 11h00 their prize breeding bull appeared and walked right up to the thicket where the lions were resting. Quick action had to be taken and the bull was chased with the Land Cruiser in order to get him away from the lions and back towards the village. Fortunately, the lions did not spot the bull and they were unaware of the commotion.

Twenty-one tourist vehicles approached the lions during the past day and a half. Most of the tourists (15 vehicles) saw the lions and they spent between 10 and 90 minutes watching them. It is essential that the Purros Conservancy must receive direct benefits from the tourism value of these lions that live on their doorstep.

28 Oct 2008. Hoaruseb lions in Purros. Early this morning the Hoaruseb lions moved east and almost into the Purros Village. They spent the heat of the day in thick vegetation less than a kilometre from the village. A discussion as held with the "Lion Officer" trainees and it was agreed that the livestock would be moved away whilst I monitor the lions for the next 24 hours. Shortly before sunset, a donkey appeared from nowhere and the lions attacked and killed it before anything could be done to prevent it. The lions will be monitored closely for the rest of tonight.

27 Oct 2009. Combined lion training course. A training course on lion eco-tourism was held for the Purros Conservancy's "Lion Officers" and Wilderness Safaris at the Skeleton Coast Camp. Wilderness Safaris kindly provided transport and accommodation for the Purros Conservancy. The course was attended by Paulus Kevare, Bertus & Colin (Purros Conservancy), and Kallie Uararavi, Monica Greeff, Willie Smit, Wagga Tjiraso, Grace Muroko, Daniel Petrus, Wakapaha Kasaona & Rapaturuka Watokuya (Wilderness Safaris). Logistical support was provides by Emsie Verwey (Wilderness Safaris).


26 Oct 2009. Xpl-37 & 38. The adult lionesses of the Hoaruseb Pride were observed playing during the early morning hours, before sunrise.

25 Oct 2009. Lion versus crow. In 2006, the BBC wildlife documentary "Desert Lions" captured beautiful images of a young Hoaruseb lioness and her obsession with chasing crows. Today, at the age of 6 years, "Morado" (Xpl-37) has not yet lost her dislike of crows. She spent lots of energy chasing crows at an oryx carcass in the Hoaruseb River.

24 Oct 2009. Hoaruseb/Hoanib link. As observations on the Hoaruseb lions resumed, it has become apparent that they have, during the past six months, been moving far south, and there is strong evidence that they have been interacting regularly with the Hoanib lions, including their mother (Xpl-10). It will take some time of intensive observations to establish the nature and significance of these interactions. This afternoon "Tawny" (Xpl-38) and Xpl-55 (of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride) were observed 12 km apart, south of the Hoaruseb River.

22 Oct 2009. Leyland's Drift-2. The Hoaruseb lions stayed at Leyland's Drift for another day. They consumed the oryx carcass and were playful during the cool mornings.

20 Oct 2009. Leyland's Drift. The Hoaruseb lions were observed feeding on the oryx carcass at Leyland's Drift for most of the day. "Morado" (Xpl-37) failed to catch a juvenile oryx in the late afternoon. Wilderness Safaris spent several hours waiting for the lions to become active, and their patience was rewarded as they had a magnificent sighting of the lions.

19 Oct 2009. Hoaruseb lions move east. The Hoaruseb male (Xpl-44) and "Tawny" (Xpl-38) moved a long way eastwards along the Hoaruseb River and were resting 3 km west of the Poort during the day. "Morado" (Xpl-37) killed an oryx at Leyland's Drift during a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. The three large cubs have not yet been located. Images from a camera trap that was placed in a narrow gorge in the Hoanib Floodplain have been retrieved and are available for viewing under Camera Trap.

18 Oct 2009. Early rain. Unusual early rain showers were observed in the dunes of the lower Hoaruseb River. The precipitation created beautiful colours and textures on the dunes (see photos below).

17 Oct 2009. Return to Hoanib Floodplain. Following the presentation to the Kunene Regional Council & NACOMA at Terrace Bay, the Hoanib Floodplain was surveyed en route to the Hoaruseb River. Shortly after sundown the three sub-adult lions (Xpl-55 & 56, and the unmarked female) were located 5 km east of Auses Spring.

16 Oct 2009. Presentation to NACOMA & Kunene Regional Council. A pre-arranged meeting for the evening of 15 October did not materialise due to logistical problems. We finally met up at the mouth of the Hoaruseb River this morning and the presentation on the Desert Lion Project was rescheduled for this evening at Terrace Bay. By way of background, NACOMA (The Namibian Coast Conservation and Management project) was established in March 2006 as a five-year project under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, funded by the Global Environment Facility and the Government of the Republic of Namibia. NACOMA is tasked to pave the way for an Integrated Coastal Zone Management System for the Namibia’s coast. The objective of the visit by NACOMA and the Kunene Regional Council (KRC) to the area was a) in celebration of the newly developed Skeleton Coast Park Management and Development Plan, b) to familiarise senior members of KRC with the coast, and c) to identify possible eco-tourism economic opportunities for communities on the coast. The group consisted of several senior members of the Kunene Regional Council, including the Governor: Hon. Dudu Murorua, and Councillor: Jona K Mburura.

15 Oct 2009. Clay Castles. Earlier this morning the lions were observed as the moved through the Clay Castles. It was a remarkable sight. They are now moving eastwards towards Leyland's Drift.

14 Oct 2009. Fun and games. It was overcast and cold for most of the day. The Hoaruseb lions were active throughout and spent a lot of time socialising and playing. The male (Xpl-44) moved downstream at 11h30. He roared occasionally and was probably trying to locate the rest of the pride. "Morado" (Xpl-37) and the three large cubs kept a low profile and did not reveal themselves to him.

13 Oct 2009. Spectacular scenery. At sunrise "Morado" (Xpl-37) left the three large cubs feeding on the oryx and moved further west along the Hoaruseb River. She was quite active and was observed hunting on several occasions. At 11h45, Xpl-37 followed a herd of springbok into the granite boulders and she has not yet returned. It is suspected that she might have succeeded in catching one of the springboks.

12 Oct 2009. Lions catch oryx. As soon as the Land Cruiser was mobile again, the Hoaruseb lions were located west of the Clay Castles. They were still active at 13h00 and continued to search for prey along the riverbed.

At 15h06 "Morado" (Xpl-37) captured an adult female oryx, after an elaborative hunt that lasted 32 minutes.

12 Oct 2009. Bogged-down. Shortly before sunrise, whilst following the Hoaruseb lions, the Land Cruiser became stuck in quicksand. Seven hours later, the vehicle was finally cleared from the treacherous substrate.

11 Oct 2009. Purros meeting. The meeting to decide on the fate of the Hoaruseb lions, held at the Purros Conservancy office this morning, was a major success. The Purros Conservancy Committee, members of the Purros community (72 men & women were counted), IRDNC (Lucky Kasouna, Margie Jacobsohn & Garth Owen-Smith), Kunene Conservancy Safaris (Russell Vinjevold) and Desert Lion Conservation (DLC) attended the meeting. The discussions were long and detailed. In summary, the major points and/or decisions made during the meeting are as follows: a) the community realises the value of the lions and would like to find a way to live with, and benefit from them, b) the recent activities of the lions near and inside the Purros village is a major concern and must be addressed, c) the development of a lion tourism programme, with financial benefits to the Purros Conservancy, must continue, d) DLC must continue with the training of the selected community members to monitor the lions and assist with developing the lion tourism programme, and e) IRDNC agreed to find funding to cover the salaries of the trainees.
Observations on the Hoaruseb lions continued after the meeting. They were still inside the Skeleton Coast Park.

The "lion meeting" held at the Purros Conservancy office
The Hoaruseb lions - oblivious to the meeting in Purros

11 Oct 2009. Xpl-37 amongst sand dunes. Late yesterday afternoon "Morado" (Xpl-37) left the rest of the Hoaruseb Pride and moved further west and into dune-belt. She actively searched for prey and spotted a large male baboon feeding on the edge of a reed bank. Over a period 42 minutes she carefully stalked to within 10 metres, and then pounced on the unsuspecting baboon.

10 Oct 2009. Hoaruseb lions head for coast. During the night the male (Xpl-44) joined the group and the lions moved further west along the Hoaruseb River. They are now resting east of the Clay Castles.

"Morado" (Xpl-37) and her large male cub
The two male cubs in the riverbed
"Indigo" the male cub of Xpl-38

Yesterday both lionesses showed behavioural signs of oestrous. This morning the male (Xpl-44) followed "Tawny" (Xpl-38), but she remained aggressive towards him. Both lionesses still have dependant young and are not expected to start their oestrous cycles for another 4-6 months.

9 Oct 2009. Relief as Hoaruseb lions move. There has been much talk in Purros that the Hoaruseb lions will have to be shot because of the potential threat to the local community. But after the darting of the male (Xpl-44) the lions responded beautifully. They vacated the area near the villages and moved far westward, following the course of the river. Early last night the lionesses killed an oryx west of Leyland's Drift and Xpl-44 joined them during the night. By late morning (today) the lionesses were resting inside the Skeleton Coast Park.

8 Oct 2009. Dart Hoaruseb Male. The GPS collar of the Hoaruseb male (Xpl-44) appeared to have failed and was transmitting a recovery alarm signal. At 22:00 today the Conservancy reported that the lion (Xpl-44) was inside the Purros village. I verified the report and found Xpl-44 lying amongst the old Himba huts on the western side of the village. Using sound playbacks, the lion was attracted back into the Hoaruseb River. He was darted at 23:26 and the faulty GPS collar was removed and replaced with a VHF radio collar. See Statistics for an update on web visits during September 2009.

7 Oct 2009. Re-united with Hoaruseb lions. After a long absence (due to the unusually high rainfall, extensive flooding of the Hoaruseb River earlier in the year and important work that had to be conducted in other parts of the study area) the Hoaruseb lions were located and observed today. It was fantastic to see them again. A long meeting was held with the Purros Conservancy to discuss the lion situation. The lions have killed a number of donkeys that belong to the community and there were suggestions from the community that the lions must be shot. However, the Conservancy agreed that I can evaluate the situation for the next three days, and then present suggestions for a possible solution at a follow-up meeting to be held on 11 October 2009.

7 Oct 2009. Shutdown of satellite collars. Sufficient funding to cover all the outstanding fees and the current downloading costs of the two satellite GPS collars (Xpl-3 & Xpl-54) have not yet been secured and the satellite downloads have now been terminated. Televilt, the Swedish suppliers of the collars, have been most accommodating and have agreed to place the satellite downloads "on-hold". Once the outstanding fees had been paid, the movement information of the two lions will still be available for download. Some funding towards these costs has been received and more may be forthcoming.

6 Oct 2009. More movement animations. NEW! The first movement animation is now available for the Hunkap Male. See Hunkap Pride.

5 Oct 2009. Hunkap male. Data received from the satellite GPS collar, fitted to the Hunkap male (Xpl-54), have led me to the lower Obab canyons where Xpl-54 is resting in a Tamarisk thicket. The visibility is limited, but from the tracks in the riverbed it is clear that he is in the company of a small group of females and young lions. NEW! The new "highlight" format movement animations are now available for the Hoanib Male, the Hoanib Pride and the Hoanib Floodplain Pride.

4 Oct 2009. Check-up on Agab lions. Observations on the Agab lions continued today to ensure that the young lioness had recovered fully from the immobilisation. There were no signs that the darting had disturbed the lions and they approached the vehicle without concern. The newly radio-collared lioness (Xpl-60) has been named "Faye".

3 Oct 2009. Dart Agab lioness. The young lioness observed on 2 Oct 2009 turned out to be one of the sub-adults of the Agab Pride. There is a possibility that the sub-adults may disperse from their natal pride and it was therefore decided to fit a radio collar one of them. A lioness (Xpl-60) was darted and radio-collared. Paul Allan and Jody Allan Patton, who donated GPS collars in 2007, visited the project and assisted with the darting.

A sub-adult lioness from the Agab Pride
Darting the lioness
Fitting of the radio collar

2 Oct 2009. Agab lions. A young unknown lioness was spotted near Salvadora, but disappeared before she could be observed properly. The radio signals of the Agab lions were picked up shortly thereafter and they were located at the Agab Spring.

Shackleton (Xpl-48)
Agab lionesses at sunset
Male cub of Xpl-36

1 Oct 2009. Refuel. Two days of searching for Charlotte (Xpl-53) in the Hunkap, Mudorib and Kharugaiseb rivers produced no results. A quick trip to the nearest Total depot was made to refuel the Cruiser and repair the flat tire. On return the lower Uniab River was surveyed for the Obab and Agab lions.

Bat-eared foxes 20 km from the coast
Kudus at Swartmodder Spring
Elephant bull in the lower Uniab River