NEWS 2010


March 2010

29 Mar 2010. Mowe Bay. A house at Mowe Bay, which has been used by researchers and filmmakers since the 1970s, may become available to the Desert Lion Project to use as a base. Because of its location and quick access to the Hoaruseb, Hoanib and Uniab Rivers, it would be of enormous benefit to the project.

28 Mar 2010. Xpl-44. During the past 48 hours the Hoaruseb male (Leonardo) moved from Leyland's Drift to Purros, killed a donkey near the Community Campsite, continued along the Hoaruseb River for another 12 km, then he turned around and came all the way back downriver. He moved past the narrow gorge (the Poort) earlier this evening. He walked a minimum of 43 km during this period.

27 Mar 2010. Sea of Sand. All the efforts over the past few days & nights to locate the Hoaruseb lionesses (Tawny & Morado) have produced no results. Their wind-blown tracks were spotted a few times and it is suspected that they have moved into the dunes, south of the Hoaruseb River, in search of prey, or to give birth. As cubs they use to spend a lot of time with their mother (Xpl-10) in this area, which is not accessible by vehicle. The colour photograph was taken this afternoon, while monitoring the area for radio telemetry signals. The b&w image is a satellite photo of a section of the dunes, 18 km south of the point where the colour photo was taken. The blue circles indicate where Xpl-10 and her cubs were located (by aerial radio tracking) in 2005/6, and the red cross is the place where Xpl-10 gave birth to her first litter.

26 Mar 2010. Brown hyaena. Xpl-44 moved all the way to the coast again last night, and then east to reach Leyland's Drift at 05h00 this morning. He was roaring regularly, presumably also looking for the lionesses (Tawny & Morado). A bold brown hyaena was darted to prevent it from eating a bait (meant for the lions) that was laced with a sedative (Midazolam). Blood samples and ID data were collected from the hyaena to add to the growing database on brown hyaenas in the area. They can be identified based on individual markings on their legs (see some photographs collected by camera traps).

25 Mar 2010. Daylight. The Hoaruseb River (from the coast to 8 km northeast of Purros) was covered twice in the past 24 hrs, in search of the adult lionesses (Tawny & Morado). Their tracks were followed deep into the dunes south of the Clay Castles, but they have not yet been located. During a chance meeting (late at night) with Henk & Anita Schoeman (Skeleton Coast Fly-in Safaris), they donated a remarkable 12 Volt LED light-unit to the Project. The unit consists of a strip of 60 separate LED lights, which turns the working area inside the cab of the Land Cruiser, into daylight. Remarkably the light consumes only 1 Amps of power.

24 Mar 2010. Faulty telemetry receiver. Xpl-44 recovered well from the immobilisation and moved up-river, towards Clay Castles, during the early morning hours. He is currently resting in a thicket. After many hours of testing, it has just been confirmed that the telemetry receiver is faulty. But the problem appears inconsistent, which is the worst kind of technical glitch to experience in the field - because it is so difficult to isolate the problem with limited resources. Notwithstanding, this means that the long search and efforts to try and locate Xpl-10 must be repeated. A telemetry receiver that is in good working order must first be located.

23 Mar 2010. Dart Xpl-44. During the night it was confirmed that the satellite GPS collar of "Leonardo" had stopped working, and that he was the only lion present. There were tracks of two lionesses (most likely Xpl-37 & Xpl-38), but it appears that they moved into the dunes (towards the south) a couple of days ago. Between 01h00 and 03h00, Leonardo moved to the coast, probably in search of the females, and returned by early morning. At 23h00 this evening, "Leonardo" was darted and his faulty collar was replaced with a new satellite GPS collar.

22 Mar 2010. Confusion in the Hoaruseb. The search for Xpl-10 & the Hoaruseb lions continued throughout the night. Hundreds of square kilometres were covered systematically north of the Hoanib River, between Okongwe and Ganias. The Hoaruseb River was reached at midnight. Fresh lion tracks, moving downstream from Leyland's Drift were spotted. Recent flooding left the Hoaruseb River very muddy and driving along the river was difficult. The lion tracks were followed all the way to the coast, but no radio signals were heard (the telemetry equipment were checked and appeared to be working). The location of the lions was eventually pinned-down, based purely on following their tracks, to a thicket about 5 km from the coast. At dusk a male lion was observed briefly and a bit later the roar of a male lion was heard from the same location.

21 Mar 2010. Ongoing search for Xpl-10. Since early on 18 Mar 2010, 328 kilometres have been driven, and a total of 67 hours were spent searching for Xpl-10 and the Hoanib Floodplain Pride. During the entire time headphones were used to listen to radio-telemetry static (see example below) with the hopes of picking-up a signal.

Using GPS & satellite images to navigate at night
Sound files and a recording of radio telemetry static

20 Mar 2010. Okongwe. The tracks of several lions are being followed deep into the mountains east of Okongwe Spring (between Purros and the Hoanib River/Obias junction). Hopes are that the tracks belong to Xpl-10 and her group. Few prey animals were observed on the Hoanib Floodplain and it is not surprising that the lions have moved. Between 2003 and 2006, Xpl-10 spent a significant amount of time around Okongwe. It is therefore plausible that she returned to the area.

Okongwe area
Xpl-10 at Okongwe in 2005/6

19 Mar 2010. Hoanib Floodplain. The entire Floodplain was surveyed intensively and there were no signs of recent lion activities. The Hoanib Floodplain Pride was nowhere to be found and no fresh or old lion tracks were observed. The search continues...

18 Mar 2010. Camera Trap. The camera trap on the western part of the Hoanib Floodplain could not be reached because of the early rains and was last checked on 29 Dec 2009. The Floodplain had finally dried-up enough that the camera could be retrieved earlier today.

Brown hyaena - 8 Jan 10 01:25
Brown hyaena - 31 Jan 10 08:16
Brown hyaena - 10 Dec 09 12:35
Black-backed jackal - 18 Feb 10 10:42
Ostrich - 2 Mar 10 09:51
Springbok - 22 Feb 10 15:46

18 Mar 2010. Long hours. Hundreds of kilometres have been driven searching for fresh lion tracks and listening to static noise on the radio telemetry receiver.

16 Mar 2010. New GPS collars. After several distractions, such as the report of lions at Mile 108, the Land Cruiser has been repaired. Mike Bezuidenhoudt of Steckels Toyota, Swakopmund, is thanked for his help. A new shipment of VHF, GPS, and two Satellite GPS radio collars, sponsored by Jody Allan Patton and Paul Allan (of Valcan), arrived in Swakopmund during this period. Some time was spent programming the GPS and Satellite GPS collars, which were supplied by Televit. Fieldwork now resumes with urgency, with the main aim to fit the new radio collars and replace the old and worn-out radio collars.

13 Mar 2010. Lions at Mile 108? A convincing report was received from several fishermen that saw 2-3 lions killing a seal on the beach, north of Mile 108, and that the lions dragged the carcass inland. The report was investigated and many hours were spent searching the area. No evidence was found of recent lion movements near the coast between Cape Cross and the Ugab River. Close to the spot where the incident was reported to have happened, tracks were found of a brown hyaena dragging and feeding on a Cape fur seal. The difference between the spoor of a brown hyaena and a lion is presented below.

Signs in the sand of a brown hyaena dragging a seal
Brown hyaena

10 Mar 2010. Vehicle problems. Persistent problems with the fuel tanks of the Land Cruiser over the past week have continued. The interesting observations and the continuity, which were just starting to produce results, must unfortunately be stopped now, in order to attend to the problems.

9 Mar 2010. Hunkap Male. During the night Xpl-54 approached the Cruiser and was observed this morning in a narrow gorge about 12 kilometers northwest of Hunkap spring. There is a problem with the VHF transmitter of his satellite GPS radio-collar.

8 Mar 2010. Kharugaiseb. A young male lion was tracked and located in one of the upper Kharugaiseb tributaries. The lion was very wary and because of the difficult terrain, could not be approached.

7 Mar 2010. Adverse conditions. During the past two days, strong east-winds (unusual during the rains), high ambient temperatures (> 37.5 ° Celsius), high humidity, and rain, made tracking and locating lions very difficult. A large section of the areas utilised by the Uniab, Obab and Hunkap lions were surveyed, without any success. Early one morning a pied crow snatched and took-off with a small, but valuable object (donated by Dr F Senekal during the recent visit to Cape Town). Many fruitless hours were spent following the crow.

5 Mar 2010. Lost lioness. After all the effort (during the past 48 hours) and the attention to detail, losing the young lioness was a big disappointment. But website updates are now available for Statistics, Land Cruiser and Land Cruiser Report.

4 Mar 2010. Failed effort. The statement has often been made that the success of the Desert Lion Project revolves purely around luck.But it is obvious, however, that with more effort and skill, the chance of being lucky, improves. Occasionally opportunities present themselves, such as the encounter with the Hunkap lions on 4 May 2009, or finding with the young lioness two days ago (2 March 2010). These opportunities must be pursued. Sometimes they result in success, such as the former example when two lions of the Hunkap Pride were darted & radio-collared (see News 5/6 May 2009), or they result in nothing: the latter example - the young lioness disappeared after an enormous effort of tracking her for two full days.

3 Mar 2010. New video clips. Three new movies can be viewed here or under Gallery & Land Cruiser. Helmut Hofer kindly filmed and produced the "Land Cruiser" movie (bottom left).

Land Cruiser by H Hofer - 02'29 35 MB
Lions in dunes - 00'35 2.5 MB
Quick sand - 00'30 3.7 MB

2 Mar 2010. Hunkap lioness. Distant vocalisations of lions were followed in the lower Samanab River, and a young lioness was spotted and observed briefly. The lioness was skittish and avoided the Land Cruiser. It is suspected that the lioness is part of the Hunkap Pride.


1 Mar 2010. Report on BFG tires. In September 2009 Michelin Tyre Company, South Africa, sponsored 8 BF Goodrich Mud-terrain tires. After 10,455 km of active field-work an analysis on the performance of the tires were compiled in a report submitted to Michelin (see pdf report –- 283Kb).