NEWS 2010


August 2010

31 Aug 2010. North to Okongwe. The two lionesses recovered well from the darting and by late morning they settled in a mopane thicket a few kilometres to the east. Two nights ago, the Hoanib Floodplain male (Xpl-56) returned to Okongwe. It was decided to locate and follow him with the hopes that he may lead us to the missing lions of the Hoanib Pride.

30 Aug 2010. Find Hoanib Pride. After 18 days of searching, members of the Hoanib Pride that were present during the poising incident last month were located today east of the Obias junction in the Hoanib River. Disappointingly there were only two lionesses present (Xpl-57 & 58). Both were darted. The radio collar of Xpl-57 was replaced and Xpl-58's collar was lengthened. It is unclear if the remainder of the pride are still alive.

29 Aug 2010. Xpl-10. The additional lions in the Hoaruseb could not be located and the search for the Hoanib Pride continued down to the Mudorib and Amp's Poort area. Xpl-10 and the two sub-adult lionesses of the Floodplain Pride were located in the granite ridges south-west of Amp's Poort, and a brown hyaena was observed scavenging on the remains of an oryx carcass.

28 Aug 2010. Tawny & Morada. The two Hoaruseb lionesses (Xpl-37 & 38, better known as Morada & Tawny), were located in the Hoasruseb River, about 5 km from the sea. There is a strong possibility that the lions that were observed east of Leyland's Drift during the past two weeks were not Tawny & Morada, but Hoanib lions. This will be investigated during the next few days. Both Hoaruseb lionesses were immobilised this evening. A GPS collar was fitted to Morada (Xpl-37) and the VHF collar of Tawny (Xpl-38) was replaced. The Holder family and Wilderness Staff, based at Khumib Camp, assisted with the dartings.

27 Aug 2010. Presentation. After Xpl-73 recovered from the anaesthetics, the search for the rest of the Hoanib Pride was extended to the Hoaruseb River. At the request of Wilderness Safaris, a talk on the Desert Lion Project was presented to the Holder family and other guests at the Skeleton Coast.

26 Aug 2010. Dart Hoanib lioness. After sitting in the vehicle the entire day the Hoanib lions slipped away during the late afternoon. They crossed several mountain ridges and disappeared. By total chance, they were located again at 23h00 and were observed in the moonlight. The group consisted of 4 lionesses, none of whom were present during the recent poisoning in the Ganamub River. A lioness was darted and fitted with a GPS radio collar. The whereabouts and welfare of the rest of the Hoanib Pride is unknown and of concern.


25 Aug 2010. Breakthrough. At 02h10 this morning a sub-group of the Hoanib Pride was located in a narrow valley about 15 km north-east of Okongwe Spring, after a 15-day search. Their tracks were first picked-up at midnight and then the signals of at least two radio-colarred lionesses were heard. Due to the difficult terrain it was impossible to get close enough to the lions to observe them. They will be approached carefully during the day and efforts will be made to observe them tonight. It is important to determine which of the marked lions are still alive, following the poisoning incident in late July 2010.

24 Aug 2010. Okongwe. The Land Cruiser proved once again to be an outstanding off-road vehicle. The search for the Hoanib lions was extended into the northern section of the Okongwe area. There are no roads in this area and routes were planned through the mountains using satellite photos. These were displayed on the PowerBook Mac computer and linked to a GPS using the MacGPS Pro programme. A recently abandoned Himba village was discovered in one of the northern valleys. The rising of the full moon at 19h56 was quite spectacular.

23 Aug 2010. Fresh spoor. By late morning a second set of fresh lion tracks were found near Okongwe. After careful assessment the lion was again identified as a member of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride (Xpl-56). The blue squares (middle photo) indicate where the tracks were observed and the red dots show the movements of Xpl-56 as recorded by his satellite GPS collar. It is suspected that Xpl-56 moved into the Okongwe area, which is far outside his current home range, because he may have been attracted by the vocalisations of other lions. An effort is currently being made to follow the route that he travelled with the hopes that this may lead to finding the Hoanib lions.

21/22 Aug 2010. Xpl-10. The mystery of the spoor of a single lioness around the water-hole at the Hoanib/Mudorib junction was solved. The tracks were followed and to great surprise Xpl-10, the Hoanib Floodplain lioness, was located. It appears that she might have given birth to a litter of cubs nearby.

20 Aug 2010. Central Hoanib. After collecting medical supplies at Palmwag, the entire Hoanib River and some of the tributaries were searched again. There was still no sign of the main Hoanib Pride.

19 Aug 2010. Eastern Hoanib. The Hoanib-lion-search continued as the entire Hoanib River, from Amp's Poort to Sesfontein and south to the Obeb River, was covered. The spoor of 2 lions (a sub-adult male and female) was picked-up at the Obias River, but no sign of the main Hoanib Pride has yet been found.

18 Aug 2010. SA male lion. The southern and western part of the Okongwe area were searched for the missing Hoanib lions. At 22h30 the sub-adult male lion (Xpl-56) of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride was located East of Sima Hill. He was still on his own, and thus supporting the hypothesis (of 12 Aug 2010) that the lionesses have abandoned him. Searching for the Hoanib lions was extended to the Tsuxub River and the Amp's Poort area without picking up any fresh spoor or radio-signals.

17 Aug 2010. North to Okongwe. Many fruitless hours were spent looking and waiting for the lioness at the Hoanib/Mudorib junction. At 23h00 the search for the Hoanib Pride was continued to the Obias River and then north into the Okongwe mountains. By sundown today every possible track had been driven and most of the dry water courses were scanned for fresh spoor. No evidence of the Hoanib lions could be found.

16 Aug 2010. Mudorib River. The fresh spoor of a lioness was spotted near the water-hole at the Hoanib/Mudorib junction. Closer investigation revealed more tracks of a lioness (possibly the same individual) frequenting the area. The water-hole and the surrounding areas are being monitored closely.

Several elephant breeding herds are using the water-hole Augur Buzzard

15 Aug 2010. Hoanib search.

During the past five days a total distance of 471 kilometres have been driven along all the major tributaries of the Hoanib River, between Dubis and Amp's Poort (see map - right). No radio-telemetry signals or fresh signs of the main Hoanib Pride ("Bianca and 5 other radio-collared lionesses) have yet been found. The map displays a track-log (red lines) of the search pattern.

14 Aug 2010. Angry bees. The search for the Hoanib lionesses continue. The entire Hoanib River, as well as the Ganamub, Obias, Okongwe, and several other smaller tributaries have been covered thus far. Whilst trying to connect to the BGAN satellite IP modem this afternoon, a swarm of rather aggressive honey bees descended on the Cruiser. There was a frantic effort to get away from the bees, but an escape was only managed after being stung three times.

13 Aug 2010. Hoanib lions. With the aid that the increasing moonlight will provide during the following ten days, a big effort is made to locate Xpl-47 ("Bianca") and the rest of the Hoanib Pride. It is important to determine what the status of the group is following the poisoning of Xpl-64 and a sub-adult male (see 30 July 2010). The GPS collar of Xpl-47 must be removed, the data downloaded, and a new battery fitted. The strong south-westerly winds of the past week uprooted an Acacia tree near the Tsuxub River. The tracks of two lionesses were followed along a wash to the south of the Hoanib. One lion was spotted on a mountain slope, but it soon dissapeared. A female dusky sunbird made for an entertaining afternoon, while waiting for the lions to reappear.

12 Aug 2010. Xpl-56. The Land Cruiser gave a few more problems during the day, but they were managed. The sub-adult male (Xpl-56) of the Hoanib Floodplain pride was observed for the latter part of the day. He had been separated from the lionesses and was calling for them at regular intervals. This may be the initiation of him being ousted for the group.

11 Aug 2010. Amp's Poort. Removing the computer chip was a lengthy affair, but the opportunity was used to redesign and upgrade the electrical lay-out of the Cruiser. This included the solar power and all the 220 Volt access points for the computers and satellite communication. New images from the camera trap in the Hoanib Floodplain were downloaded. The camera was cleaned and new batteries were installed. Shortly after sunset the Hoanib Floodplain lions were located on the north-bank of the Hoanib River a few kilometres east of Amp's Poort.

10 Aug 2010. Second breakdown. The electrical problem of yesterday was repaired and the journey to Mowe Bay and the Hoanib River (via the Floodplain) was continued. Early this morning, whilst negotiating the soft sand and dunes leading up to the Hoanib Floodplain, the vehicle experienced more electrical problems. The problem became worse and the Cruiser was finally stopped amid thick succulent vegetation on the western edge of the Floodplain (see photo - bottom left). JB Auto Repairs (the "Land Cruiser Whisperer") in Cape Town was contacted via satellite phone. Johann identified the problem to be be a computer "chip" that was installed in the vehicle before it was purchased by the Land Cruiser Club of SA. Most of the day was spent removing the computer "chip" and reconnecting the correct wiring.

9 Aug 2010. Breakdown. An electrical problem with the Land Cruiser developed this morning (10h00) about 50 km south of Mowe Bay. Sand-storms and strong winds (gusting up to 60 km/h) complicated working on the vehicle. After five gruelling hours the problem was isolated and repairs are being made.

8 Aug 2010. Lower Uniab. During the return trip to the Hoanib, the tracks of several lions were spotted in the lower Uniab River. Some time was spent trying to locate the lions. During the 1980s, and even up to the early 1990's, lions regularly visited the Uniab Mouth. It is the first time that lions have moved this far west along the Uniab River for almost 15 years.

7 Aug 2010. News Page. This website is aimed at making information from the Desert Lion Conservation project available to everybody. Apart from providing data and results from the study, regular updates are present in the News Section with photographic images of day-to-day happenings. A concerted effort is made to only present the facts, and not to draw conclusions or make value judgements.The information and photos have been used and/or referenced extensively by third parties, in support of particular viewpoints or opinions. Despite the efforts to only present the facts, the interpretation of the information is subject to the particular viewpoints of viewers, and that has resulted in criticism towards Desert Lion Conservation. An example can be seen in a recent letter to a Namibian newspaper (see LINK). This brought into question the value of continuing with the regular updates in the News Section. But, it was decided to continue for as long as the information contributes to the long-term conservation of lions, as explained under Vision and Projects.

6 Aug 2010. Tire Sponsorship. The Land Cruiser was collected from Steckel's Toyota after a major service and repairs. The second sponsorship of 6 BFG Mud Terrain tires by Michelin Tyre Company, SA, was received (see Sponsors). Adolf Huester helped with the arrangements and paid the import fees. The tires were fitted by Swakop Fitment Centre and Wimpy Els is thanked for assisting. Special certificates of acknowledgement were designed and printed for each of the 22 people that worked on the rescue operation of the Humpback whale on 21 July 2010. A letter of appreciation was written to the Police Commissioner of the Kunene Region for the efforts by the eight Police officers.

5 Aug 2010. Land Cruiser. Searching for the Hoanib Pride will require a serious effort. It was decided to return to Swakopmund to collect the Land Cruiser. The Isuzu, borrowed from KCS, served the Project well. Russell & Tina Vinjevold are thanked for making it available.

4 Aug 2010. Water in the Hoanib. The third day of studying the ageing tracks and signs at the Ganamub did not reveal new information on the death of the two lions. Despite extensive radio tracking the remainder of the group (four radio-collared lionesses, including Xpl-47 "Bianca") could not be located during the past three days. Another sub-group of the Hoanib Pride (Xpl-70 & 71, recently marked in the Okongwe area, 11-14 July 2010) were located every day in the Hoanib River. The two artificial water installations in the Hoanib River (at the Ganamub & Mudorib river junctions) have been repaired by MET and many animals are starting to utilise the water-points.

3 Aug 2010. Lions killed giraffe. It has been a difficult task to reconstruct the sequence of events from tracks that were more than a week old, but the investigation has thus far revealed that lions from the Hoanib Pride killed livestock at a village 30 km further north in the Ganamub River. Members from the village and Sesfontein Conservancy pursued the lions and found them feeding on a fresh giraffe kill about 1.2 km north of the Hoanib River. The vehicle loaded the giraffe carcass (photos: left & middle), but left a piece of meat behind that was laced with poison. Two lions were found dead at the scene and it is likely that they died from the poison. Skin and hair samples will be analysed. The lions were also pursued by vehicle and on foot, and there is a possibility that shots may have been fired at the lions. Further efforts will be made to determine if any of the remaining lions were either shot or wounded. A Cape fox was found dead at the scene (photo: right) and may also have been poisoned.

2 Aug 2010. Lion carcasses burnt. By the time the location of the dead lions, courtesy of the Isuzu from Kunene Conservancy Safaris, was reached, the lion carcasses had already been burnt by MET (due to the suspicion that poison was used). Unfortunately some of the evidence was destroyed in the process. The staff from Hoanib Camp, Wilderness Safaris (Emsie Verwey, Frank Kasaona, & Moses Awiseb), assisted with the investigation that has led to new information. More work is needed and updates will follow.

1 Aug 2010. Samanab. En route to the Hoanib River to investigate the possible poisoning of Xpl-64, the Obab lions, including "Nina" (Xpl-49) & Xpl-45, were located amongst the dunes in the lower Samanab River. Two adult cheetahs were spotted just before dark south of the Hunkap River.