NEWS 2009


September 2009

28 Sep 2009. Escape. Shortly after midday on the 27 Sep 2009, nearly 48 hours later, the Hunkap male (Xpl-54) finally moved away from the Salvadora bush and the opportunity were used to change the flat tire on the Cruiser. Xpl-54 returned shortly thereafter, but since it was clear that he was alone, the search for Charlotte (Xpl-53) will now be continued. The photos below were taken during the long hours of waiting.

27 Sep 2009. Predicament. With the help of the satellite collar, Xpl-54 was located in the Hunkap River, west of the spring, at 15h00 on 25 Sep 2009. He was lying inside a thick Salvadora bush. It was decided to wait nearby in case there were other Hunkap lions with him, but the terrain was difficult and the Cruiser was forced to stop very close to the bush in order to see the lion(s) when they leave. The vehicle then developed a flat tire. It was too close to get out and change the wheel and the only option was to wait until Xpl-54 left. It was a long night because all the water, food and blankets were on the back of Cruiser, and by sunrise on the 26th, Xpl-54 was still inside the bush. It transpired that he had killed an adult zebra and had dragged it into the bush. By 10h00 on 27 Sep 2009 he had not yet left.

Xpl-54 at Savadora bush
Flat tire
A lappetfaced vulture flying overhead
Occasional sightings of Xpl-54

26 Sep 2009. Decision on Movement Animations. After serious consideration, advice received from several interested parties and suggestions received via email, I have decided not to abandon the Movement Animations. These have attracted a lot of attention and for the past 18 months have been the second most popular section of the website (after the NEWS). However, if any of the lions were to be shot, or harmed in any way, as a result of the leading information displayed on this website, the purpose and value of this project would be nullified. I have considered introducing a membership structure, with usernames and passwords, but in the interest of all the viewers of the website, especially the Namibians with slow Internet connections, I have decided to keep the website open to everyone. In future only highlights of the Movement Animations will be displayed. Depending on the availability of data, the movements of the GPS-collared lions will be presented every fortnight, for a selected six-day period, using the same Flash animation format.

25 Sep 2009. Monitor Xpl-54. Searching for Charlotte (Xpl-53) in the eastern Kharakaub area was fruitless, despite exhausting all the available options to access the area (small tracks & dry riverbeds). Efforts have now been turned to Xpl-54, because there is nothing better than a lion to find other lions. With the satellite GPS collar sending daily messages of his movements, my hopes are that Xpl-54 will lead me to Charlotte and the rest of the Hunkap pride.

24 Sep 2009. Hunkap-2. The Hunkap male (Xpl-54) recovered well from the immobilisation and was observed feeding on a springbok carcass just before dawn. The first emial from his radio collar was received via satellite earlier today. The search for Charlotte (Xpl-53) continued today without success.

The area north east of Hunkap Spring
A herd of springbok near Orawau Spring

23 Sep 2009. Success at Hunkap. The Hoanib lions were in the mountains NE of the Mudorib waterhole and the radio signal of one lioness was monitored for one night. Early this morning it was decided to search for the Hunkap lions instead. The Hunkap male (Xpl-54) and one of the Obab lionesses (Xpl-45) were located near the Hunkap spring. Can you spot the lioness in the picture below? Click on the lioness. If you are right an enlarged picture will appear.

Xpl-54, the Hunkap male, west of the main spring
Click on the lioness if you can spot her....
Bigger image

23 Sep 2009. Fit new satellite GPS collar. The satellite GPS collar that was donated by Sally & Les Weintrobe (see Sponsors) had arrived, and the decision was made to fit the collar to the Hunkap male for the interim. Despite darting Xpl-54 and an adult lioness (Charlotte - Xpl-53) in early May 2009 and fitting radio collars, the movement patterns and activities of the Hunkap lions have remained a mystery, because I have simply not been able to find them. Two local staff members of IRDNC, with whom I have worked with for several years, were able to join the darting of Xpl-54. Neither of them had seen a lion at close quarters and it was a privilege to share the experience with them.

Sonja Hambo with the Hunkap male
The new satellite GPS collar on Xpl-54
Boas Hambo holding the drip

22 Sep 2009. Floodplain lions move further south. Early this morning the Floodplain lions moved into sensitive terrain and observations had to be stopped to avoid vehicle tracks on the gravel plains. Attention was turned to the Hoanib Pride.

20-21 Sep 2009. Lions on the gravel plains. The Hoanib Floodplain lions were located and observed on the gravel plains and amongst the granite outcrops south of the Floodplain.

Xpl-55 moving along a dry watercourse
Juvenile suricates on the gravel plains
Hunting during the late afternoon

19 Sep 2009. Coastal survey. The coastline along the southern section of the Skeleton Coast Park was surveyed for signs of lion movements during the past one to three months. The coast was scanned for tracks and other signs of lions and the areas close to the Messum, Ugab, Huab, Koigab and Uniab rivers, in particular, were covered extensively. There were no signs that lions moved along this part of the coast during recent months.


17-18 Sep 2009. Return to study area. After attending to vehicle repairs and other maintenance needs, fieldwork continues. A short video clip of a giraffe drinking can be viewed here (00'24 / 1 Mb).

15 Sep 2009. New sponsorships. Michelin Tyre Company sponsored eight BF Goodrich tires for the Land Cruiser. The tires were collected in Swakopmund. Mr A Huester (snr) of Huester Machine Tools, Windhoek, Namibia, donated funds towards field & research equipment (see Sponsors).

14 Sep 2009. Movement Animations – ON HOLD. On several occasions during the past few months I have been informed that the GPS-collar Movement Animation data, posted on this website, are being misused. It would appear that some individuals are monitoring the website and using the Movement Animation data for personal gain, and not in the best interest of the lions. The suggested activities include photographing lions from low-flying aircraft and trophy hunting. It has always been my philosophy to make all the information collected by this project available to the public. In light of these allegations, however, the posting of Movement Animations on this website is being reviewed.

13 Sep 2009. Desert lion video-clip. A short video-clip (02’05 / 1.6 Mb) of the Hoanib Floodplain lions, recorded during the past two weeks, can be viewed.

The latest website statistics for August 2009 is available on the Statistics page.

10-13 Sep 2009. Search for Hunkap lions. Another big effort is underway to find the Hunkap lions. The area where they are expected to live is being covered systematically, but there are few tracks and it is difficult to access large areas. Thus far lion tracks have been spotted along several drainage lines. A young male was seen at Hunkap spring early on the 11th. None of the radio-collared lions have yet been located.

Sub-adult male lion at Hunkap spring
Sunset in the lower Hunkap River
A male and female giraffe on the plains east of Hunkap spring

9 Sep 2009. Other Hoanib lions. The Hoanib Pride was located at dusk. All the radio-collared lionesses were present and some of the sub-adults were seen briefly on the riverbank with the last light of the day. The latest movement animation update is available for the Hoanib Male.

Two young lionesses at dusk on the banks of the Hoanib River
Rock formation in the Hoanib

8 Sep 2009. Other Floodplain lions. After leaving Xpl-25, the rest of the Floodplain Pride was located near the Hoanib River, several kilometres east of the Floodplain. Xpl-55 & 56 were observed playing and hunting along the north-bank of the river.

7 Sep 2009. Xpl-25 update. During the night Xpl-25 moved approximately 15 km and is now lying in thick vegetation in the middle of the floodplain. She managed to dislodge most of the quills from her neck and appears to be doing well. At first-light she embarked on an elaborative hunt on a small herd of oryx, but was unsuccessful. The terrain is too difficult to continue observing her without causing disturbance. New movement animation available for the Hoanib Male.

6 Sep 2009. Xpl-25 injured. During the night Xpl-25 moved across the Floodplain and was lying in the dunes near Auses when, at sunrise, she started hunting and disappeared behind the dunes. A porcupine was observed running away a few minutes later. It was only after sundown that Xpl-25 was observed again. She killed an adult porcupine earlier this morning, but had several porcupine quills imbedded in her throat and face. Her condition is being monitored closely.

A porcupine running from Xpl-25
Porcupine quills embedded in Xpl-25's neck
Xpl-25 trying to feed on the porcupine

5 Sep 2009. Xpl-25. When Xpl-10 moved into sensitive terrain and could not be followed, attention was turned to Xpl-25 and her newly born cubs. She was located on the Hoanib Floodplain and observed from a safe distance. Her cubs had not yet been seen.

Xpl-25 hunting oryx on the edge of the Hoanib Floodplain

4 Sep 2009. Desert lions. Earlier today the Floodplain lions moved through spectacular scenery. Unfortunately they could not be followed. Vehicle tracks on these sensitive substrates are damaging and would scar the pristine landscape for many decades.

3 Sep 2009. Rejoin Hoanib Floodplain lions. Xpl-10 and the three sub-adults were located during the late morning. They were fully fed and moved to the top of a high ridge, overlooking the Hoanib valley, and rested in the shade of overhanging rocks for the remainder of the day. New movement animations are available for the Hoanib Male and the Hoanib Floodplain Pride.

Xpl-10 resting at the rock over-hang
Xpl-55 gazing over the Hoanib valley below
A lioness on the ridge overlooking the Hoanib
Xpl-10’s point of view of the Hoanib valley

2 Sep 2009. Xpl-3. During the heat of the day Adolf (Xpl-3) was located in a wash south of the Hoanib River and was observed until dark.

2 Sep 2009. Dart adult Hoanib lioness. An adult lioness of the Hoanib Pride was finely darted after ten consecutive nights of trying. Following two days of tracking the group through very difficult terrain, and loosing track of them on several occasions, a beautiful lioness was immobilised shortly before midnight. The lions had killed a giraffe during the early morning hours and the lioness (Xpl-59) was darted near the carcass.

The Hoanib Pride male at the giraffe carcass
Xpl-47 and the sub-adults
Fitting a radio collar to Xpl-59

1 Sep 2009. Difficult terrain. It has been difficult to keep up with the Hoanib lions as they moved over mountains and rocky terrain. A computer with high-resolution satellite images and GIS software was set up with a live link to a GPS to assist in finding routes through the rough terrain. Below is a movement animation of the interaction between the research vehicle and the lions for the past four days. Refer to the key for an explanation of the animation.

Key to animation:

Land Cruiser = black car icon
Lions = yellow lion icon
Blue circle = lions are being observed
Red arrows = monitoring radio telemetry signal
Red car icon = when contact with lions had been lost.

Navigating through rough terrain with GIS software and a live-link to a GPS