NEWS 2010

2010
Jan/Feb

January/February 2010

27/28 Feb 2010. Rain clouds. The spoor of a sub-adult male was found between the Koigab and Huab Rivers. The lion is currently moving towards Springbokwasser, but following his tracks have been difficult because of the sensitive terrain. The rain clouds continue to build towards the east.

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26 Feb 2010. Return to desert. The Land Cruiser received a major service and several modifications and repairs were done before embarking on the long trip along the coast to the Hoaruseb River. All the ephemeral rivers and springs are being surveyed for signs of recent lion movements. The building of big cloud formations towards the east suggest that flooding of the major rivers can be expected.

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25 Feb 2010. Outcome of "Desert Lion Fundraiser" in Cape Town. The fundraiser was arranged and hosted by Etienne Bruwer Kalaharifonds, in association with Lochner Photography and the Buite Burger. Held at Eensgezindt wine estate, near Durbanville, the event was attended by 380 guests. As the guest speaker, P Stander presented an audio/visual slideshow on the Desert Lion Project. A semi-formal sit-down dinner and an auction, hosted by the South African celebrity/comedian, Wicus van der Merwe, followed the talk. The evening was a major success and EB Kalakarifonds (EBK) generated R150,000 from the ticket sales and auction. The success was made possible due to generous donations, support, and a lot of hard work. A detailed attendance list will soon be available on Lochner Photography. Desert Lion Conservation would like to thank Etienne, Anne-Marie, Hannes, and everyone involved for a remarkable event. In addition, P Stander wishes to thank Dr Nathanie Naude & Dr Freddie Senekal for their efforts and support (see Sponsors).

Thanks goes to: Lizette Jenkins (planning, logistics and making it all happen), Marina Louw (Eensgezindt), LCCSA & EBK (sponsoring P Stander's flight), Du Toitskloof Kelders, Vriesenhof & Distell (table wines), Peninsula Beverages (soft drinks), Brandhouse (Captain Morgan Rum).
The following parties sponsored items that were auctioned: Johan Louw (Uwe Koetter Jewellers) - a beautiful necklace that was sold to Dr H Kelbrick for R31,000.
Wines from Beyers Truter (Beyerskloof), Rijk Melck (Muratie), Durbanville Hills, Elzette Du Preez (De Grendel), Orc de Rac, Badenhorst Family wines, Diemersdal, Groot Constantia, Jan Boland Coetzee (Vriesenhof), GT Ferreira (Tokara), Hamilton Russel Vineyards, Guardian Peak, Linda Marais (Leopards Leap) & Adoro.
Hannes Lochner (photographs & his new book: Colours of the Kalahari). J & L Slabbert (Helicopter trip). J Lee & P Bremer (Arniston weekend). Just Lamb & Karoo Free Range (meat) & L Veldtsman (tablecloth). Tables at the venue were sponsored by: WILD, Medi-Clinic, Tommis Abattoir, CSV Construction, Honeysett Family Trust, LCCSA, and several other individuals.
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The wit and humour of the auctioneer, Wicus van der Merwe, made the event a major success
The radio collar of Xpl-3 was sold for R6000
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Drs. Daan & Anne-Marie du Plessis & Spike Erasmus
Lunch with Jan Boland Coetzee at Vriesenhof
Discussions with Eben Human - Die Burger
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24 Feb 2010. Presentation to LCCSA. On 13 February 2010 a talk on the Desert Lion Project was presented to the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa (LCCSA) in Springs, South Africa. More that 50 members of the LCCSA attended the event. The presentation was aimed at giving feedback to the LCCSA on the status of the Land Cruiser and the progress of the Project. After the talk an auction was held to raise funds for the Desert Lion Project (details will follow). The members of the LCCSA and Mr. A Huester, in particular, are thanked for their ongoing support (see Sponsors for more details).

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23 Feb 2010. Swakopmund Talk. On return from the lecture/fundraising trip to South Africa, a talk on the Desert Lion Project was held in Swakopmund at 19h00 on 22 Feb 2010. Mielies & Peter Sander and T & R Vinjevold are thanked for arranging the presentation that was attended by 52 people.

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mielies nathalie After the presentation, Nathalie Cadot and Felix Fallat presented the project with a donation of new LaCie 500 GB external hard drive.

21 Feb 2010. Lions vs. Fundraiser. The Flash animation (below) displays the actual movements of the two lions fitted with satellite GPS collars (Hoaruseb Pride: Xpl-44 "Leonardo" & Hunkap Pride: Xpl-54) during the events of the Desert Lion Fundraiser (see photos on left) in Cape Town, between 17h00 and 01h00. The scale for both maps is 10 x 10 km.

Events during the Fundraiser
Movements of Xpl-44 (Hoaruseb male)
Movemnts of Xpl-54 (Hunkap male)

20 Feb 2010. Desert Lion Fundraiser. A fundraising event, arranged by Etienne Bruwer Kalaharifund, was hosted at Eensgezindt in Cape Town on 19 Feb 2010. Details on a most successful evening will follow soon.

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3 Feb 2010. Males move back to Purros. Two days ago the adult male, "Leonardo", and the sub-adult males ("Indigo" & "Crimson") joined-up and they returned to Purros during the night of 1/2 Feb 2010. The Purros Lion Officers were monitoring the situation on 1 & 2 Feb 2010, and Wilderness Safaris (Jan Masen & Gotlob Hawaxab spent the night of 2/3 Feb 2010 making sure that the lions do not enter the village. Data received from the satellite collar of the adult male (Xpl-44), showed that he left the Purros area at 07:00 on 2 Feb 2010 and move westwards along the Hoaruseb River (see map). By 08:00 on 3 Feb 2010, he was close to the border of the Skeleton Coast Park. The lionesses have not yet returned, and we believe that they are still on the Hoanib Floodplain.

 

 

The movements of Xl-44 "Leonardo" between 2 and 3 Feb 2010.

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31 Jan 2010. Breakdown. Late yesterday afternoon the Land Cruiser developed a problem with a rear wheel mounting. Willie Smit & Monica Greeff, at Skeleton Coast Camp, assisted with the sourcing of spare parts from Swakopmund. The vehicle is stranded at the Huab River and they arranged for the parts to be delivered this morning. REPAIRS. The spare parts arrived just after 13h00. The Cruiser was repaired quickly, and 21 hours after the breakdown, it was mobile again.

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30 Jan 2010. Relief as break in fieldwork starts. The lion problems at Purros appear to have been solved, at least for the immediate future. The lionesses are enjoying the Hoanib Floodplain and the large numbers of available prey, the adult male ("Leonardo") has moved to the lower Hoaruseb River and the two sub-adult males are still moving westwards and away from Purros. The Purros Lion Officers, with support from Skeleton Coast Camp (Wilderness Safaris), are monitoring the situation. These developments brought a great sigh of relief as fieldwork had to be interrupted for a pre-arranged fundraising and lecture trip to South Africa. During the following three weeks, regular contact will be maintained with the Lion Officers (via Wilderness Safaris) and updates on the situation will be posted here.

The two sub-adult males 8 km west of Purros
Xpl-44 near the Clay Castles
The Land Cruiser leaving the Hoaruseb River
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28 & 29 Jan 2010. Blow to Purros lion problem. Our the persistent and comprehensive efforts over the past two weeks are producing results, and have dealt a serious blow to the ongoing lion problem at Purros. It is too early to consider success, but it looks promising. The three lionesses are still on the Hoanib Floodplain and they appear comfortable in the area, which is just outside their normal home range and where there is plenty of wildlife. The two sub-adult males ("Indigo" & "Crimson) have left Purros and are moving west along the Hoaruseb River. The forced separation between them and the adult females (due to the translocation of the females) may stimulate their immanent dispersal. This would reduce the food requirements of the Hoaruseb Pride by ± 50%, and the resulting load on the lionesses.

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The training of the Purros ion Officers has been successful thus far. They have become competent in tracking and monitoring the lions, but they have also shown that they are diligent and committed to the task.

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27 Jan 2010. Early success? When compared to the post-translocation behaviour of other lions, observed during similar events, the Hoaruseb lionesses moved around and explored the Floodplain surprisingly more than expected. With previous observations, lions started moving back towards their home range as soon as they had recovered from the anaesthetics.

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26 Jan 2010. Exploring the Floodplain. The Hoaruseb lionesses did not immediately start moving back to their home range. Instead, they spent the day exploring a small section of the Hoanib Floodplain. They probably saw more wildlife today than they did during the past few weeks in the Hoaruseb River. The Floodplain Pride (Xpl-10 is the mother of Tawny and Morado) is currently not around. The situation will be monitored closely.

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25 Jan 2010. Purros rescue effort # 2. Another major effort was launched to solve the "Purros Lion Problem" and to try and save the lions from the inevitable fate, of being shot or poisoned, that await them were the problems to continue. The previous effort in November 2009, documented on this NEWS section, came under some criticism. The majority of the comments, however, were value judgements or uninformed opinions. But such comments are to be expected, when seen in the context of the information provided. The purpose of the NEWS section is to provide basic information on the project. It is not logistically possible to give all the necessary background information, justifications or scientific references, and it is therefore open to criticism. For the benefit of those people interested in the lions and the progress of the project, a brief account of the second rescue effort is presented here.

After discussions with the Purros Conservancy, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and the major local tourism operators, it was decided to dart and translocate the three lionesses, to the northern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. They are expect to walk back to the Hoaruseb River, but their journey will take them through their usual wet-season home range, where there are currently large numbers of prey animals (oryx, zebra & springbok)..

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As a result of the disturbances caused by their regular visits to Purros and some unfortunate tourism activities (where they were chased at night with spotlights), the lionesses had become extremely skittish, and darting them was difficult. It required 74 hours, with hardly any sleep, sat in a vehicle in the heat of the day and throughout the night, but mostly, it required patience. The Purros Lion Officers were involved throughout and their commitment was impressive. Wilderness Safaris (Monica Greeff, Willie Smit, & Jan Masen, in particular) were instrumental in the process and they provided significant logistical support. Skeleton Coast Fly-in Safaris and Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (Corne de Lange) are also thanked for their help.

Darting Xpl-37 "Morado"
The three vehicles used for the translocation
Transporting the lionesses
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Transporting the lionesses to the Hoanib Floodplain, after they had been immobilised, was a tiring, albeit exciting, effort that lasted 11 hours. During the early morning hours the fog became so thick that it was very difficult to drive along the faint two-track road. At 10h30 this morning the lionesses were placed in the shade of an embankment, and by 12h30 they started exploring the surroundings.

Off-loading and monitoring the lionesses at the northern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain
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24 Jan 2010. Purros. Despite substantial efforts, no sleep for several days, damage to equipment and the Land Cruiser, and help from many people, all efforts have failed and the lion problem at Purros continues.

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23 Jan 2010. Purros update. The adult male (Xpl-44 or "Leonardo") and the sub-adults moved into the Gumatum River after sundown. At 23h00 they moved north in search of the lionesses and passed through Okahirongo Elephant Lodge. The three resident fox-terriers tried to chase the lions and were very lucky to escape unhurt. The pride re-united 11 km north of Purros at 04h00 this morning. By 06h30 they were back in the Hoaruseb River. The male ("Leonardo") moved down-river, but the rest of the pride settled in thick vegetation for the day, just east of Purros.

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22 Jan 2010. Realities of living with lions. Whilst the two adult lionesses were off hunting zebras in the mountains north of Purros, the sub-adult males walked into the village and prowled around some of the houses. Despite the fear and anxiety that this incident caused amongst the Purros community, they remain willing to try and solve the problem amicably. In protection of themselves and their livelihood, the Purros community could, understandably (by any standards) and legally (by Namibian law), have retaliated and shot all the lions. This is a remarkable achievement in community-based conservation, and it was exemplified when the Chairman of the Purros Conservancy (Mr. Leon Kasupi) personally assisted with the herding >300 cattle to the river, where they had to drink less than 200 metres from where the lions were resting.

One of the houses that the lions approached
Tracks outside a hut where the children stayed
Leon Kasupi helping to water the cattle
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21 Jan 2010. Hoaruseb lions explore new habitats. With the lack of prey in their normal range, the Hoaruseb lions are starting to venture into new areas. Shortly after sundown, the two adult females killed an ostrich less than 500 metres from the Purros village. At 23h30, whilst the adult male and sub-adults were still feeding, the lionesses moved off to the north of Purros. They pursued a large herd of mountain zebras, and I lost track of them in the mountains 15 kms north of Purros.

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20 Jan 2010. Hoaruseb in flood. The floodwaters reached Purros at 03h00 this morning, and by sunrise the volume of water had increased substantially. The Hoanib River is also in full flood. Several tour operators could not cross the Hoanib at Amp's Poort and had to return to Purros.

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19 Jan 2010. Unsettle lions at Purros. As a result of the early rains and the lack of prey animals the Hoaruseb lions are continuing the kill donkeys at Purros. The problem has become more serious as several Himba farmers moved into the area with their cattle because to the green grass. It was decided to harass the lions at night, using fires and load noises, to prevent them from moving into the village and hopefully coerce them into moving away in search of prey in the hills and mountains south of the Hoaruseb. The Purros Lion Officers and Wilderness Safaris staff from Skeleton Coast Camp assisted for the efforts. At 03h30 the Hoaruseb River suddenly came down in flood. There was frantic scrambling to get all the vehicles out of the river. The Land Cruiser was badly stuck on an embankment and it required a substantial effort by all the available hands to get the vehicle out before the floodwaters reach it (photos by Monica Greeff).

Wilderness staff and the Lion Officers at 02h45
The Hoaruseb floodwaters at 03h30
The Land Cruiser escaping the floodwaters
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18 Jan 2010. Hoaruseb lions at Purros. The lions killed a third donkey and during the daytime remained in thick vegetation just west of the Purros village.

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17 Jan 2010. Purros donkeys. The recent rains produced a flush of green grass on the vast gravel plains and hills. The few remaining prey animals (oryx & springbok) that still utilised the Hoaruseb River have now also dispersed. Despite avoiding Purros for several weeks, the Hoaruseb Pride are struggling and have ventured back to Purros. They killed two donkeys during the past 48 hours. The situation is being monitored.

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15 Jan 2010. Ugab River. Several surveys along the lower Ugab and Huab rivers during January 2010 produced no recent signs of lions inhabiting the area. It would appear that the resident lions have vacated the area after the death of "Miles" (Xpl-16) in August 2008.

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11 Jan 2010. Hunkap movement animation. New movement animations are available for the Hunkap Male (Xpl-54).

7 Jan 2010. Death of Xpl-3. The investigation into the death of the Hoanib Male (Xpl-3) has continued. Detailed animations of his movements between August and November 2009, prior to his death on 21 November 2009, are available under GPS collars/ Hoanib Male.

3 Jan 2010. Vehicle problem. During the night the lions moved onto the Floodplain. The Land Cruiser developed a problem with its exhaust and it became impossible to follow the lions because of excessive noise.

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2 Jan 2010. Sensitive terrain. It has been difficult to observe Xpl-10 and the rest of the Floodplain Pride because of the sensitive terrain through which they were moving. To drive off the established tracks in order to get closer to the lions, would leave long-lasting scars on the pristine habitat.

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1 Jan 2010. Success. During the early morning hours, the signal of Xpl-55 was picked-up, and the lions were finally located just south of the Hoanib Floodplain.

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