NEWS 2010

2010
Jun

June 2010

30 June 2010. Statistics. The website statistics for June 2010 can be viewed under Statistics.

28/9 June 2010. Xpl-56. Efforts to work in the Hoaruseb River was abandoned because the river is still too wet. After the Land Cruiser got stuck in soft mud on 28 June 2010, attention was turned to the Hoanib River. The Hoanib Floodplain pride was located and observed amongst the dunes east of the Floodplain.

27 June 2010. Valuable lion ID photos. Occasionally the Desert Lion Project receives information and photographs of lion sightings from tourists and people that visit the area. Quite often these sightings, and especially the photographs, are very valuable (see below). The majority of all the lions, over the age of two years, are individually known and can be identified based on their whisker-spot patterns, brandmarks or radio collars. Recently a number of these observations and photos sent to the Project, provided significant information. A request is therefore made for interested parties to submit sightings and any supporting photographs of lions to the Project. A new email address (photos@desertlion.info) was created for this purpose. Photographs of high quality are necessary in order to identify individual lions from whisker patterns and brandmarks. Information from as far back as the 1970's can potentially be of great value. A new section, entitled "Photo IDs", will be created shortly under the Projects section of this website, where all submissions will be listed and acknowledged. More details will follow.

Photo of Xpl-9 by SRT - 2008 Brandmark of Xpl-9

Send ID photos to

photos@desertlion.info

Tourist photo of Xpl-37 Whisker pattern of Xpl-37

Remarkable sighting of Xpl-2. A few weeks ago Louis Nortje & Trix Malan (Wilderness Safaris) observed two lions near the main road north of Palmwag. The information and a photograph was sent to the Project by Trix Malan. The lioness was identified as Xpl-2, based on a brandmark on her left shoulder and the fact that she is blind in her left eye (see below). This is a significant observation. Xpl-2 was last observed in early 2005 and she is now 18-years old. The adult male on the photos was also identified as Xpl-35.

Xpl-35 & Xpl-2 in June 2010 (photo: T Malan) Notice the left eye of Xpl-2 (T Malan) The brandmark of Xpl-2 (T Malan)
The ID file of Xpl-2 from 2005 Left eye of Xpl-2 on 22 Nov 1999 Brandmark of Xpl-2 on 25 Jan 2003

27 June 2010. Support & donations. Adolf Huester facilitated the sponsorship of insurance for the Land Cruiser by the Bennie Meiring Trust. Pieter Meiring visited the project briefly, courtesy of a flight to Skeleton Coast Camp arranged by Louis Nortje of Wilderness Safaris, to present the insurance cover (details to follow under Sponsors). Peter Sander went to great lengths to locate and purchase a hand-driven centrifuge in Germany to assist with the processing of blood samples in the field. Kunene Conservancy Safaries provided valuable logistical support and also sponsored the customs taxes (N$ 1,100) for the recent shipment of telemetry receivers from the USA. The over-heating problem experienced with the Land Cruiser during the past week was repaired at Skeleton Coast Camp - Ferdi Molelekeng & Willie Smit (Wilderness Safaris) are thanked for their efforts.

Pieter Meiring with the Land Cruiser at Skeleton Coast Camp The hand centrifuge in action

26 June 2010. Brown hyaena released. The second brown hyaena (Xhb-13) was released this morning. His movements were monitored with the radio telemetry until the signal eventually disappeared behind the mountains to the south-east of Skeleton Coast Camp.

25 June 2010. Second brown hyaena. As the MET staff were preparing to load the brown hyaena for translocation to Torra Bay, a second hyaena arrived at the Skeleton Coast Camp. This development made us realise that the problem is more complex than we assumed. After discussions with MET and Wilderness Safaris we decided not to translocate the hyaenas, but to release the first hyaena, dart and radio-collar the second hyaena, and to monitor the situation for the next month or two before deciding how best to solve the problem.

Fitting a radio collar to the second hyaena Joshua & Bernard of MET with the hyaena Releasing the first hyaena

24 June 2010. Brown hyaena at SCC. The Land Cruiser was driven slowly to the Skeleton Coast Camp (Wilderness Safaris) in an attempt to repair the over-heating problem. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) staff from Mowe Bay were at SCC to capture a brown hyaena that regularly causes problems in the camp. An offer was made to assist MET by darting the hyaena instead of using a box-trap to catch the animal (hyaenas tend to injure themselves when trapped). A porcupine was accidentally caught in the trap and was released immediately, but the brown hyaena was darted before he entered the trap. Wilderness staff from SCC and Serra Cafema assisted with a successful operation that ended at 05h00 this morning.

The porcupine continued eating in the trap The hyaena was darted at 01:32 Willie, Monica, Johan (WS), Vilo (MET) with hyaena

23 June 2010. Humpback whale. During the night the strong and hot east-winds died down and temperatures dropped to below 10 degrees Celsius with a mild south-westerly breeze. With the cold conditions the trip was continued at first light and the whale carcass was reached without further over-heating problems.

The Humpback whale measured 13.7 metres in length. It is a remarkable experience to see such an enormous mammal up close. Several brown hyaenas have visited the site, but the whale is still intact. A camera trap was set up at the carcass to monitor activities. The seal colony at Cape Fria was checked for signs of lion movements, but only jackal and brown hyaena tracks were observed.

22 June 2010. Vehicle problems. A mechanical problem and the prevailing east-wind conditions (temperatures reaching 41.2 degrees Celsius & winds of up to 30 knots), aggravated by driving in thick sand and mostly with the wind, caused the Land Cruiser to overheat. The trip to the whale carcass had to abandoned. Patience is now required to wait for the wind and sand-stroms to subside before attempting to identify and repair the mechanical problem that is causing the vehicle to overheat.

21 June 2010. Rocky Point. After the Huab River was surveyed and no evidence of recent lion activities was found, the Scot's bridge, near the mouth of the Huab (centre photo), was crossed to the coast. Attention was turned to monitoring the Humpback whale carcass north of Cape Fria. Stong winds and sandstorms complicated the long drive and Rocky Point was reached shortly after dark.

20 June 2010. Huab River. The survey for signs of recent lion movements, that started on 16 June in the Ugab River, was expanded today to include the Huab River, from Peter's Pools to the coast. No evidence of lion activities were found, but the strong winds over the past week may well have obliterated recent signs and tracks.

18/19 June 2010. Goantagab River. The search for the new lion(s) that moved in to to Ugab area continued with a comprehensive survey of the Goantagab River, Doros Crater and Gai-ais. No sign of recent lion movements were observed, but the tracks of a male cheetah, two female leopards (one of the female was accompanied by to small cubs) and several spotted and brown hyaenas were observed.

16/17 June 2010. Ugab search. Repairs to the Land Cruiser, tires and equipment were finally completed and fieldwork commenced in the Ugab area, searching for the lion(s) that recently moved there. During the night an easterly wind started blowing and by sunrise it had developed into a raging sand/dust-storm. An adult Humpback whale washed ashore north of Cape Fria (photo: E Verwey). Efforts will be made to monitor the area incase lions find the carcass.

13 June 2010. Logistics. Essential repairs to the Land Cruiser were done during the past week. With support from Adolf Huester, Kunene Conservancy Safaris, Peter Sander, Paul Allan Foundation, Etienne Bruwer Kalahari Fonds, Rob Roy Ramey and Emsie Verwey, numerous logistical and funding needs were dealt with. The developments include: the licence-registration of the Land Cruiser, arrival of 2 new radio-telemtry receivers, a Zeiss night-time telescope for the dart gun (below), a digital sound recorder, and several computer software manuals.

4/5 June 2010. Report on BFG tires & other developments. The results of a report prepared for Michelin Tyre Company (SA) on the BFG tires can be viewed under Cruiser Reports. The "Bennie Meiring Trust" agreed to sponsor a full insurance cover for the Land Cruiser. Adolf Huester and Pieter Meiring are thanked for their efforts, and more details on this sponsorship will follow. After the problems were experienced with anaesthetics during the translocation of the Agab lions (see News: 17 May 2010), Peter Sander initiated communications with Virbac (RSA) and they have agreed to replace the batch of anaesthetics.

3 June 2010. Tire sponsorship. A detailed analysis on the performance of the eight BFG Mud-terrain tires, sponsored by Michelin Tyre Company (SA), has been prepared. Considering the extreme terrain and conditions, the tires have performed well. Details on the report will follow.

1/2 Jun 2010. Huab/Ugab lion. Ongoing problems with flat tires and added difficulties in repairing the tires in the field have made it necessary to return to Swakopmund to get extra spare wheels. It was, however, confirmed that a male lion had moved into the Huab/Ugab area.