NEWS 2009


March/April 2009

29 April 2009. Sensational Cat. An unexpected and fabulous afternoon/evening was spent observing a beautiful female leopard.

28 April 2009. Xpl-35. Movement animations of Xpl-35 are now available for March and April 2009. Photos of the meeting with Torra Conservancy have been added (see below).

26 April 2009. GPS collar animations. Analysis of the new movement data, downloaded from Xpl-35’s GPS collar on 24 April 2008, is currently underway. Movement animations for the period 23 February to 26 March 2008 have been posted (see Springbok Male). The latest update for the Hoanib Male is also available.

25 April 2009.
Big effort to re-collar Xpl-5.

Ever since she was first radio-collared in 1999, Xpl-5 has been aggressive and weary of humans. At the age of 17 years she has lost none of those attributes, and it required a 38-hour effort to dart her and replace a fading radio collar. She was in remarkably good condition with hardly any scars and weighed 140 kg. A new radio collar with a 5-year battery life was fitted, which should see her through the rest of her life. Wilderness Safaris from Rhino Camp (Daphne Hanabeb) and Palmwag (Durr Ferreira & Heidi Debnam) assisted with the darting and provided generous support.

Photo (2nd row, left) shows the dart making contact with Xpl-5, and one of the cubs (2nd row, right) playing with Xpl-5's collar after she had been immobilised.

Photo credits: 3rd row, middle & right taken by E Vervey.

Remarkably good teeth for a 17-year old lion
Demonstrating the vakue of long-term data
Daphne Hanabeb & Palmwag staff move Xpl-5 to shade

23/24 April 2009. Radio-collar new Aub lioness. A five-year old female was darted and fitted with a normal VHF radio collar. Garth Owen-Smith & Margie Jacobsohn (Directors of IRDNC) and two WWF, UK representatives (Diane Walkington - Director of Species, and Drew McVey - Programme Offic) joined the occasion. An adult male arrived after the lioness had been darted and there was much surprise and excitement when he was identified as Xpl-35 – the lion that killed “Miles” in the Ugab River. The movement data were downloaded from his GPS collar and new animations will be posted shortly under GPS Collars / Sprinbok Male. New movement animation for Hoanib Male.

23 April 2009. Re-unite with Aub lions. An intensive search effort, after leaving the Agab lions, produced a result when a sub-group of the Aub pride, including Xpl-5, was located at sundown on 22 April. Xpl-5 is one of the founding lionesses of the current desert population - she is the mother of Xpl-10 (the Hoaruseb lions) - and it was great to see that she is still in good condition. There were also two lactating lionesses and five 8-week old cubs. The whole night was spent observing the lions and allowing them to become habituated to the field vehicle.

22 April 2008. Abandon Agab lions. After 59 hours of searching for and/or monitoring the Agab lions by listening to radio telemetry signals, the observations were abandoned. Early this morning they were spotted for the first time, at a great distance, as they moved deeper into the mountains. See photos below: notice the two lionesses and small cub (right zoom) and Shackleton (left zoom).

21/22 April 2009. Find Agab lions. Large concentrations of zebra, springbok and oryx were observed in the valleys near Juriesdraai and Rooiplaat. The Agab lions were tracked down late on 21 April 2009 in a narrow gorge where they had killed a zebra.

21 April 2009. Agab lions take to mountains. During the night of the 19th April the Agab lions moved into the mountains towards Juriesdraai. It was not possible to follow them and listening to their radio telemetry signals from high points on 19 and 20 April 2008, served to monitor their movements. Staff from Wilderness Safaris, Rhino Camp assisted with the monitoring and provided support. At 04h00 on 21 April 2008 the lions moved further east and their telemetry signals were lost. This is of concern because they are moving towards the livestock area of Torra Conservancy where they ran into trouble earlier in the year. The search to locate them continues. New movement animation update is available for the Hoanib Male.

19 April 2003. Agab cub struggling to keep up. During the early morning hours Xpl-36 and her small cub got separated from the group – the cub could hardly keep up during the early part of the evening. Xpl-36 spent the day with her cub at a spring and they rejoined the rest of the group at 21h30.

19 April 2009. Single cub for Agab lioness. After 24 hours of observation it was confirmed that Xpl-36 produced only one surviving cub. This is the first record of a single-cub litter in the desert population, but it is possible that some cubs may have died due to the heavy rains and flooding rivers at the time of their birth.

18 April 2008. Skittish Agab lions. The changes in the behaviour of the Agab lions towards tourist vehicles are more serious than the initial evaluation. Four vehicles from Wilderness Safaris - Rhino Camp tried to view the lions today, but the lions were skittish and moved into thick vegetation when the vehicles approached. Only after the last vehicle had left did they come out into the open and were then quite active and playful. A serious effort will have to be made to regain the trust of the lions before they can once again be approached and viewed by tourists. Tip: move mouse over last photo (far right).

18 April 2009: New cub(s) for Agab lions. The Obab lions moved into mountainous terrain and it were impossible to continue following them. Attention was turn to locating the Agab lions. The radio signal of “Shackleton” (Xpl-48) was picked-up at 03h00 in the Agab River. The group consisted of two adult females (Xpl-18 & 36)," Shackleton" and three large cubs. This is also the first record and confirmation of Xpl-36’s new litter. One cub, approximately 8 weeks old, was observed, but the litter size still has to be confirmed. The lions were surprisingly nervous and weary of the vehicle. This is possibly due to recent conflicts with people when a male was shot. These lions are important to tourism, especially to regular tours that run from the nearby Rhino Camp (Wilderness Safaris). Several days will now be spent with this group to ensure that they calm down and become habituated to tourist vehicles. New movement animation for the Hoanib Male.

17 April 2009: Obab lions avoid Xpl-50 & 51. The Obab lions consumed the rest of the zebra carcass before 22h00 last night. They were sleeping around the remains of the carcass when, at 00h10, the signal of Xpl-50 appeared on the radio telemetry monitor. At 00h30 they all leapt up, looked intently in the direction of the approaching males, and moved off in the opposite direction. They spent the day resting in a Salvadora thicket.

16 April 2009. Obab lions. Afternoon images as lions return to the zebra carcass.

16 April 2009. Obab lions kill zebra. After spending the day at Urunedis Spring, “Nina” and her family moved east towards the Aub River. They hunted zebras along the mountain slopes, but were unsuccessful during four recorded hunts. At 23h20 they stopped and rested until 03h10. Shortly after 04h00 they caught an adult male zebra in a broad valley running down to the Aub River, and fed vigorously until sunrise. A tourist vehicle drove past at high speed and did not see the lions, but disturbed them and they moved off. A spotted hyaena, that had been watching the lions from a safe distance for over an hour, took advantage of the situation and moved in to feed on the carcass, whilst the lions watched from a distance.

Spotted hyaena feeding on the lion kill - moved to Spotted hyaena Page.

15 April 2009. Lion tourism. Continue with data collection on the interaction between tourist vehicles and lions, following the study design developed in the Purros Conservancy. These data will aid the development of lion eco-tourism in the Torra Conservancy and the Palmwag Concession.

Notice the lion in the middel and right photo. The tourists had not yet seen the lion (middle), but viewed it when they moved back (right).

15 April 2009. Urunendis Spring. The two males (Xpl-50 & 51) remained in a Euclea thicket for most of the night. The young lioness, Nina, and her group moved down from the mountains at 23h00, and observations were focussed on them. They hunted zebras on the moonlit plains, but were unsuccessful on several occasions. Just before dawn they started moving south and reached Urunendis spring after sunrise, where they are now resting in the shade of a Salvadora bush.

13 – 15 April 2009. Monitoring Obab lions. After darting the two new males (Xpl-50 & 51) they were observed regularly. The young lioness (Xpl-49), marked on 11 April 2009, was named “Nina” and her movements were tracked daily. At midday on 14 April 2009 “Nina” and her group were resting <8 km from the males (Xpl-50 & 51). Observations will continue to see if the two groups meet-up and interact. It is yet unknown if the males are nomads or recent immigrants. New movement animation available for Hoanib Male.

14 April 2009. Tire problems. Fieldwork has been hampered by regular punctures. Nine flat tires had to be repaired during the past four days. With only one serviceable spare wheel at the start of the fieldwork, the repairs had to be made on the spot, often in the blazing sun, at night, or near lions. The punctures resulted mostly from sharp rocks penetrating the tread of the tires. Large numbers of zebras have been observed in the upper Urunendis and Obab Rivers (photos below).

13 April 2009: Xpl-50 & 51. Two adult male lions were darted in the upper Obab River. A GPS radio collar was fitted to Xpl-50.

10-12 April 2009: Obab lions. A follow-up meeting, from the discussions with Torra Conservancy, was held with Wilderness Safaris at Palmwag on 10 April 2009. Thereafter, fieldwork resumed with intensive radio tracking and surveying of the Aub, Barab, Urunendis and Obab Rivers. On 11 April 2009 a group of 11 lions were located on the water-divide between the Urunedis and Obab Rivers. A young lioness was immobilised and fitted with a VHF radio collar. New movement animations are available for the Hoanib Male.

9 April 2009: Torra Conservancy. Moved to Human Wildlife Conflict Page.

8 April 2009: Wereldsend. The rains appeared to have stopped even though April is normally the period that the desert receives most of its annual rainfall. Driving through the areas with extensive grass cover, like the Springbok River and around Wereldsend, is difficult and none of the radio-collared lions have been located. See Hoanib Male for new movement animation update.

2/4 April 2009: Website statistics. Rainfall continues throughout the region and unusual movements of wildlife have been observed. Website statistics for March 2009 and new movement animations for the Hoanib Male are available.



25/6 March 2009: Koigab River. Vultures pointed out a carcase at sundown in the lower Huab River, but after 12 hours of watching and hoping that lions may be close by, it turned out that a cheetah had killed an ostrich. Disturbing tracks left by 4x4 vehicles that entered the Skelton Coast Park illegally was observed on the north-bank of the Huab River (middle photo). These tracks will likely be visible for the next 20-30 years. Many of the tributaries to the Koigab River flooded this year for the first time in several decades. Large pools of water have dammed-up against the moving dunes that now block the path to the coast (photo-right). The main Koigab River, however, managed to cut a path through the dunes and reached the sea.

24 March 2009: Huab River. Coastal fog during the early morning in the lower part of the Huab River. New movement update for the Hoanib Male.

23-24 March 2009: Land Cruiser Club. Members of the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa visited the project briefly on 22 March '09. David van Breda led the group of four vehicles and we met in the Springbok River (see Cruiser page). Our search for the adult male lion, Xpl-35, towards the Huab River was unsuccessful. Disappointingly, I located a lioness in the lower Huab River the following day, after the LCC group had left.

20-22 March 2006: 2009 Research Report. The analyses of GPS radio collar data has been completed and the results have been compiled in a report "Movement patterns and activity of desert-adapted lions in Namibia - March 2009". The latest movement animations are available for the Hoanib Male. Photo (below) of green grass near Wereldsend.

16 March 2009: Unusual year continues. As we enter the usual peak of the rains (March/April), the clouds continue to build in the late afternoon and showers fall far and wide. Vast areas of the Namib have been transformed into green pastures and the nutrient-rich grasses attract springboks from afar. New movement animation update available for the Hoanib Male.

11 March 2009: Data analysis. Efforts have been focused on data analysis of the movements of GPS-collared lions, until such time as active field work can be resumed. New GPS animation - Hoanib Male.

8/9 March 2009: Green grass in the Desert. The extensive rains over the past two months have turned large parts of the northern Namib into green "meadows". There are few people alive today that have witnessed a spectacle of similar magnitude. New GPS animation - Hoanib Male.

5 March 2009: Messum River. The area south of the Ugab River, including the Messum, was surveyed for signs of lion movements. No recent evidence was found, but the efforts were hampered by daily showers. GPS animation update posted for the Hoanib Male.

3 March 2009: Search for GPS collars. An extensive search over the past few days for the GPS collared lions produced no results. However, the latest update from the satellite GPS collar of the Hoanib Male, is available.

1 Mar 2009: Rain, lions & updates. With the continuing rains, fieldwork is becoming virtually impossible. This is disappointing because the movements of the lions, in response to the wet conditions, are fascinating. However, with all the major ephemeral rivers in flood, there are no alternative options. During the long periods of waiting for water levels to recede, or being bogged down, the time was spent on data analysis and updates for the website. NEW updates include: visitor statistics for February 2009, movement animations for the Hoanib Male, the last section (Part 8) of the “Sandfall movie”, and additions to the Sponsorship page.