NEWS 2010


May 2010

31 May 2010. Website statistics. During the month of May 2010 there was a marked increase in visits to the website (see Statistics for details). A total of 4087 visitors spent 257 hours browsing the site, which is a 48% increase from April 2010.

30 May 2010. Tire problems. A number of punctures during the past two days and difficulties experienced in repairing the tires have consumed a lot of time. As a result the Agab lions have not yet been located. Reports have been received of lion movements in the area near the Ugab River - these are the first records since the death of Xpl-16 "Miles" in August 2008.

29 May 2010. Agab / Springbok lions. Reports of lions in the mid to lower Springbok River have been followed-up. It is unsure if the reported lions are from the Agab pride (i.e. "Faye" and her group, recently relocated) as they have not yet been located. There are large numbers of prey animals in the area, especially towards the west.

27 May 2010. Medical supplies. Peter Sander and friends in the medical profession (Namibia & South Africa) have made another big donation of medical supplies to the Project. Details can be viewed under Funding/Sponsors. Their support during the past two years has been of great value. For example, the medical supplies and anaesthetics have made possible the recent translocations of both the Hoaruseb and Agab lions.

26 May 2010. Support from Followit. The suppliers of the GPS & satellite collars, Followit (perviously Televilt) in Sweden, have offered advice & assistance to reduce the costs currently being accumulated by Xpl-44's satellite collar. In an email from the Support Manager, Cecilia Thynel, they proposed to temporarily stop the subscription of the collar by putting the satellite modem on hold. Once the collar has been retrieved, they offered to re-activate the modem for a reduced fee of €50, which is only 15% of the standard fee.

25 May 2010. Leonardo's satellite collar. Many avenues have been used in an attempt to retrieve (or at least to have it switched off) the expensive satellite GPS radio collar of Xpl-44 "Leonardo", after he was shot for trophy hunting on 21 April 2010. The collar stopped transmitting positions via satellite on 5 May 2010, but resumed communications again on 14 May 2010. The transmissions have continued, albeit irregular, and it is still at the hunting camp near Sesfontein. The costs of lost battery power and the pointless satellite transmissions by the collar since Xpl-44 was shot, have now amounted to N$ 3633 (US$ 543).

24 May 2010. Annual Research Report for 2010.


During the past five days, research data collected over the past eleven years were analysed to asses the impact of trophy hunting, and the shooting of male lions, on the Desert lion population.

The results were compiled in a report entitled: "The impact of male-biased mortality on the population structure of desert-adapted lions in Namibia".

Details of the report can be viewed under Research Report - 2010.

Or it can be downloaded as a PDF file (705 Kb).

20 May 2010. Agab lions appear safe. "Faye" (Xpl-60) and the other Agab lions, that were translocated from the Torra Conservancy, have remained inside their home range. They have been spending time in the hills south of the Agab River where there are abundant prey animals.

18 May 2010. Agab lions update. There was some concern earlier today when the Agab lionesses could not be located, but shortly after dark "Faye" (Xpl-60) and the other lions were found on a fresh zebra kill in the hills just south of the Agab River. The number of prey animals have increased substantially in their home range and it is hoped that they will remain here and not return to the Springbok River and the Torra Conservancy.

17 May 2010. Assessment of the Agab events. The five Agab lions were darted in the Springbok River (south-west of Bergsig) whilst feeding on a springbok carcass (see X on the map). They were moved 38 km to the Agab River and were released inside the core part of their home range (O). The lions recovered well from the immobilisations and their movements are being monitored.

Anaesthetics. An analysis of the data suggest that there may have been a problem with the anaesthetics used during the translocation. Using data from a scientific paper published in 1991 (PDF file - 640 Kb) and data from subsequent translocations, the observed duration of immobilisation for the five lions (red dots on graph below) is substantially lower than the expected time (white dots), based on the dosage that they received.

16 May 2010. Successful night. All five lions, including "Faye" (Xpl-60) & Xpl-36, involved in the livestock killings near Bergsig were darted and relocated back to their normal home range. This hugely successful mission, that started at 01h00 on 15 May and ended at 04h00 on 16 May, was due to the committed efforts of Emsie Verwey, Hermann & Emile Visser (Wilderness Safaris) and Richard Fryer & Ambrosius Awarab (IRDNC) - see photos below. A large donation of Zoletil anaesthetics were received from Peter Sander and friends (still to be reported on). It was anticipated that these anaesthetics would last until the end of 2010, but the entire supply was consumed during this rescue operation. The sponsors of the anaesthetics are thanked, because their contribution made this operation possible.

15 May 2010. Locate Agab lions. Following a long drive from the Hoanib River, most of the night was spent searching for "Faye" (Xpl-60) and the other Agab lions in the Torra Conservancy. The terrain is extremely rocky and mountainous, but they were eventually found in the upper Springbok River at 02h30. They are now being observed and attempts will be made this evening to dart and translocate the entire group. More details will follow.

13 May 2010. Lions problems in Torra Conservancy. Lions from the Agab Pride, including the lioness "Faye" (Xpl-60), XPL36 and several sub-adults and cubs have come into conflict with local people and their livestock in the area west of Bergsig. These are habituated lions that are highly valuable to tourism and they generate substantial income to the industry, especially at the Wilderness Safaris Rhino Camp, and to the local communities. Richard Fryer, of IRDNC, had discussions with the Torra Conservancies earlier today and they agreed that we can relocate the lions back to their normal home range near Rhino Camp. Wilderness Safaris have offered their assistance with vehicles and some of the experienced personnel that participated with the Purros lion problem a few months ago.

"Faye" (Xpl-60) darted in Oct 2009
Large cub of the Agab Pride
"Shakleton" Xpl-48 that was shot in Oct 2009

12/13 May 2010. Breakdown. Two wheel-studs on the right rear wheel of the Land Cruiser sheared off. It was fortunately noticed as it happened. A similar problem occurred with the left rear wheel on 31 Jan 2010 that caused more serious problems. Experts from the Land Cruiser Club of SA believe that the problem might be due to the wheel nuts being over-tightened at some point with the use of power tools, and that it caused stress fractures in the metal. Wilderness Safaris assisted in transporting five new wheel-studs from Windhoek and delivering the parts in the field. All five studs were replaced.

11 May 2010. Search for Hunkap lions. During a long drive via the Barab, Obab and Hunkap Rivers towards the Hoanib, the radio frequencies of all the missing lions of the Hunkap (especially Xpl-53 "Charlotte") and Obab prides were scanned. Some of the Obab lions (including Xpl-45 & "Nina") were found on the the water divide betweeb the Urunendis and Obab rivers.

10 May 2010. Aub Pride. The rest of the Aub Pride returned to Xpl-65 after the darting. The five large cubs were inquisitive and they all came to check on Xpl-65. The cubs got hold of a blanket that was used as a pillow/eye-protection for Xpl-65 and played with it for almost an hour. The "Queen Mother" (Xpl-5), now almost 19 years old, was also present, and she is still in good condition. At 03:22 the adult male, Xpl-35, arrived and he was immobilised to replace his GPS radio collar. Disappointingly it was discovered that the GPS antenna on his collar had broken off (similar to that of Xpl-10 - see 2 May 2010) and that no location data had been collected since 10 July 2009.

The large cubs checking on Xpl-65
Xpl-5 and the large cubs returning to Xpl-65
A male large cub playing with the blanket
Xpl-5, now almost 19 years old
Darting Xpl-35 to replace his GPS collar
The missing Gps antenna n Xpl-3's collar

9 May 2010. Xpl-65. An adult lioness was darted in the Awagab River this evening. She is a daughter of Xpl-5 (the "Queen Mother"). The lioness (Xpl-65) was named "Leica" and was fitted with a GPS collar. After the lioness was darted an effort was made to fetch the Wilderness Safaris gate-guard at Twee Palms. Rocco Kasaona was woken up at 01h30 and he assisted with the collaring of Xpl-65 ("Leica").

8 May 2010. Leonardo's satellite collar. The satellite GPS collar suddenly stopped transmitting on 5 May 2010. The last location was recorded at 00h00 on 5 May 2010. The collar was then either destroyed or moved indoors. Our efforts to locate the collar has not been successful.

7 May 2010. Tribute to Leonardo. A few days ago The Namibian, a local newspaper, published a report on the shooting of Xpl-44. The public can submit comments (via SMS) on the articles published. These comments appear in a section called "Responses on issues of the Day". The following comment was sent in by (presumably) a resident from the Sesfontein Conservancy.

"The hunting permits of all professional hunters especially in communal conservancies must be reviewed to avoid accidental deaths of beloved wild animals like Leonardo which have brought us lots of revenue, employment, development and more. Rest in peace Leonardo, your roar is no more. Please Mr Keith, be kind-hearted and re-invest the 60 per cent of income which you will earn from his skin directly to the community from those conservancies. Elias Amxab School needs assistance." From Lesley Ubiteb.

6 May 2010. Leonardo - history. Xpl-44 was born in the upper Barab/Kharakaub area in July 2003. His mother was either Xpl-9 or Xpl-11 and his farther was probably Xpl-1. In July 2007 he dispersed to the Hoaruseb River and he was first darted and radio collared on 1 Aug 2007. He settled with the Hoaruseb Pride and remained there as the resident pride male until he was shot on 21 April 2010.

Apr 2004 - 9 months Sep 2007 - 4.2 years Sep 2008 - 5.2 years Mar 2010 - 6.7 years

5 May 2010. Leonardo - mortality & sex ratios. In support of the statement made on 1 May 2010, data are presented here on the causes of mortality for the Desert Lion population between 2001 & 2007 (top left graph) and that of the Hoanib/Hoaruseb lions between 2007 & 2010. Trophy hunting and the shooting of lions by local people is the major cause of mortality amongst adult and sub-adult lions. The indiscriminate selection for male lions for trophy hunting has resulted in an alarming decline in the ratio of adult males to adult females. Amongst the northern lions (Hoanib/Hoaruseb) the recent shooting of Xpl-3 and Xpl-44 has left the population without any adult males (sex ratio = 1 female: 0 male, N [sample size] = 12).

Leonardo's Satellite Collar

Efforts to retrieve Leonardo's satellite GPS collar from the hunter have thus far failed. The collar is still transmitting daily locations from the hunting camp north-west of Sesfontein. This is frustrating because the direct costs of the collar transmitting useless data is N$103.80 (US$15.50) per day. Since Leonardo was shot, the running of the satellite collar has cost the project N$1455 (US$ 195).

5 May 2010. Floodplain lions. Xpl-10 and the sub-adult Floodplain lions moved north of the Hoanib River, towards Sima Hill.

4 May 2010. Floodplain lions move west. Xpl-10 and the sub-adults moved westwards towards the Hoanib Floodplain and were observed amongst the bleak sandy hummocks on the north bank of the Hoanib River.

3 May 2010. Statistics. Xpl-10 recovered well from the immobilisation and the Floodplain Pride were observed feeding on the oryx carcass the following evening. The website Statistics is available for April.

2 May 2010. The Queen. Xpl-10, the "Queen" and mother, grandmother or great grandmother of almost all the lions in the north, was darted at 03h12 this morning. Because of the dart failures a few weeks ago, it required a near-rediculous amount of patience and persistence but, in the end, it was luck that saw to a successful darting. The GPS radio collar fitted to Xpl-10 in May 2009 failed after three months, which is why she had to be darted again. It turns out that the GPS antenna, mounted on top of the collar, had been dislodged (see photos below).

The GPS antenna of Xpl-10's collar had broken off
GPS antenna on a new collar
Inspecting Xpl-10's teeth

Xpl-10 and the three sub-adults (including Xpl-55 & 56) were tracked and located on an oryx carcass. At he break of dawn the sub-adults were observed squabbling over the kill, whilst Xpl-10 recovered from the aneasthetics. She was mobile and started feeding at 07h30.

1 May 2010. Clarification. An article in the Namibian press quoted information and photos directly from this website regarding the shooting of Xpl-44 "Leonardo", but erroneously stated that it originated from "Conservation Safaris Namibia" and that I (P Stander) worked for, or is associated with, Conservation Safaris Namibia. This is not the case. I run the Desert Lion Conservation project. It is an autonomous initiative and all the information presented on this website is a product of this project. The work and research associated with this project is not for profit, and the information & photographs posted on this site is available free of charge. It is dedicated entirely to the conservation of the desert lions.

1 May 2010. Male lions. The shooting of adult male lions in the Namibian desert population over the past few years has been excessive and unsustainable. This has led to a significantly skewed sex ratio amongst adults and associated problems in the social structure of the lions. During the past three years, two adult males (Xpl-3 "Adolf" & Xpl-44 "Leonardo") controlled the northern section of the desert lion's range (the Hoanib & Hoaruseb Rivers). The home ranges of these lions are presented below: Hoaruseb Pride - red, Floodplain Pride - blue, Hoanib Pride - yellow, Xpl-3 [Hoanib Male] - white, Xpl-44 [Hoaruseb Male] - black). Both adult males were recently shot: Xpl-3 in Nov 2009 and Xpl-44 a few days ago. This leaves the entire area - three prides and a total of 27 adult females and sub-adults - without a single adult male. With the excessive shooting of adult males further south in the Torra Conservancy area over the past few years (documented in previous reports), there are very few available adult males to fill the void.