NEWS 2010


September 2010

30 Sep 2010. Sound playback complications. All efforts to locate and dart the lions at Bergsig, during the past 60 hours, have failed. Yet they remained in the area and came into the village on both nights. Apart form using sound playbacks and guarding a bait, the village and livestock holding pens were patrolled last night at regular intervals. At some point between two patrols (03h30 and 04h30), the lions entered the village undetected, killed a calf inside a kraal (holding pen) and then left. The fact that the lions did not respond to the sound playbacks is of concern, and it is believed that someone in the area used sound to attract lions for purposes other than to conserve them. Sound playbacks is a very effective method to study and locate lions, but it has to be used with discretion and with good sound equipment. Once lions realise that they have been hood-winged, they become wary and are unlikely to respond to sound playbacks. The Desert Lion Project spends a substantial amount of time and resources on designing, building and tuning sound systems for optimum reproduction of the frequencies of lion vocalisations. Vocalisations of individual lions are recorded using high quality digital equipment. The type of vocalisation and the source (lion ID) are chosen carefully during sound playbacks. The misuse, or unprofessional use, of sound by a third party has contributed to the lion problem at Bergsig becoming unmanageable, and that the lions will probably be shot.

A livestock holding pen at Bergsig
The current sound system
Design of a new & improved sound system

29 Sep 2010. Difficult situation. A number of external factors are complicating efforts to solve the lion problem at Bergsig. Unusually early rains and strong winds that changed in direction made it difficult to be in the right location to attract the lions. A roaring party in the settlement, with thumping music and lots of screaming and shouting, lasted until 02h00 this morning. Despite the noise and human activities, the lions still entered the village some time during the night and attached a calf. The lions were tracked this morning and their position was determined during the day. A bait was set out to attract them with sound playbacks, but as we were about to play the sound recordings this evening, a group of donkeys arrived and stood feeding next to the bait.

28 Sep 2010. Lion problems at Bergsig. A report was received yesterday about two separate incidents of lions killing livestock in the Bergsig area. Observations on Xpl-45 were abandoned to investigate the problems and to help the Torra Conservancy. Last night (04h00) one lion was observed briefly near Palm Pos, but attention has now been turned to the Bergsig village, where a lion is believed to be prowling around the outskirts of the settlement.

27 Sep 2010. Cubs. During the night Xpl-49 killed a zebra on a mountain slope. This provided an ideal opportunity to observe the cubs. There are two females and one male. It is estimated that they were born during the 2nd/3rd week of June 2010.

26 Sep 2010. New litter. The Obab lioness, Xpl-49, was located this afternoon just east of Urunendis Spring. She was last observed in April 2010, when she was darted and fitted with a GPS collar. In the meantime Xpl-49 gave birth to a litter of 3 cubs that are now approximately 3-4 months old.

25 Sep 2010. Bonding with Xpl-35. In an effort to locate the mysterious radio-collared lioness, that was spotted on 21 Sep 2010, a total of 78 hours have been spent in the company of Xpl-35 during the past five days. It was hoped that he will rejoin with the collared lioness and thus provide an opportunity to identify and dart her.

24 Sep 2010. Xpl-5. At sunrise this morning the radio signals of the Aub Pride lionesses were picked-up. They were located and movement data were downloaded from the GPS collar that was fitted to Xpl-65 on 9 May 2010. Xpl-5 (the "Queen Mother") was with the lions and she was observed briefly at dusk. She is now almost 19 years old (18.7 yrs) and is still in good condition (see photo below).

23 Sep 2010. Elephants. Xpl-35 and the lionesses were located in the upper Aub River. Many hours were spent approaching them without causing disturbance. A good position, from which to attract them with sound-playbacks and scent-lures, was reached at 16h00. A group of elephants were observed feeding on the mountain slopes and they moved past the vehicle and into the Aub River before sunset. When it was dark, as the full moon was rising, a recording of lion sounds was played. The lions responded and approached the vehicle. But so did the elephants. There was much commotion and trumpeting as the elephants chased the lions and the Land Cruiser. The lions moved away and the mission had to be abandoned.

22 Sep 2010. Mystery lioness. The radio-collared lioness that was spotted yesterday is an intriguing and important observation. This can be one of several lionesses (Xpl-9, Xpl-11, Xpl-26 or Xpl-53 "Charlotte") whose radio collars have failed, and that have consequently not been seen for several years. A big effort is underway to locate the lioness. Unfortunately the four lions separated from the male with the working radio collar (Xpl-35), and finding them in the mountainous terrain is difficult. But fortunately, the full moon (on the 23rd) provide ideal conditions to search for them.

21 Sep 2010. Palmwag. After receiving news that lions were killing livestock at Palm (just south of Palmwag), most of the night was spent driving to the location. The problem was investigated this morning, but the reports were found to be somewhat exaggerated, and that the lions appeared to have left the area. At sunset the Aub male (Xpl-35) and four other lions were located south of Aub Canyon. At a distance of + 2 km in the fading light, one of the lions were observed with an old radio collar.

20 Sep 2010. Obstacles. The Hunkap area is as harsh as it is beautiful. During the night, Xpl-73 moved into very rough terrain that cannot be accessed by vehicle. Hopes of finding "Charlotte" (Xpl-53) or the other Hunkap lions had to be abandoned.

19 Sep 2010. Hunkap activities. The two Hoanib lionesses moved into the mountains to the north-east of Hunkap during the night, but the male (Xpl-73) stayed behind. Towards sunrise he moved south and roared frequently.

18 Sep 2010. Phantom lions. Many hours were spent searching for the Hunkap/Hoanib lions. Their radio-collar signals were heard, but they could not be located in the mountainous terrain.

17 Sep 2010. Hunkap Male. Attempts were made to locate the unknown lions that were heard roaring yesterday morning, but they had moved into the mountains to the east of Hunkap. Xpl-73, the new Hunkap male, was located at 02h00 and was observed for most of the day.

16 Sep 2010. Return to Hunkap. At 11h30 on the 15th, a long radio-tracking session started from the Khumib River, via the Hoanib Floodplain, and ended at Hunkap Spring at 02h00 this morning. The Hunkap male, "Rosh" (Xpl-73) and the two Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-47 & 59) were located to the north of the spring. At dawn, the roars of a female and a young male lion were heard to the south-east.
A donation of climbing ropes were received from Cycletec and Patrick de Goede is thanked for the support (see Sponsors). The ropes are used for dragging scent-trails and tying-up bait during darting sessions. Large flocks of Palewinged starlings were observed at the Hunkap Spring.

15 Sep 2010. Leonardo's collar. The satellite GPS collar of Xpl-44 ("Leonardo") has been confiscated by the Protected Resource Unit of the Namibian Police and is currently in Windhoek. The Chief Inspector of the PRU informed us that they intend using the collar as evidence in a pending court case, and that the collar will be returned to the Desert Lion Project afterwards. Pierre du Preez and Piet Beytell of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism are thanked for liaising with the PRU and for switching the collar off.

14 Sep 2010. Reeds. At sunrise the Hoaruseb lionesses captured an oryx and dragged the carcass into a thick reed-bed. The darting of "Maya" will have to be postponed until they move to more open habitat. A rare sighting was made of a porcupine scrambling amongst the rocks early this morning.

Xpl-73 identified. After careful comparison with all available records on the ID database, the adult male (Xpl-73, named "Rosh") recently darted at the Hunkap Spring, was identified. He was born in the Agab River in August 2004 and his mother was Xpl-18.

Xpl-73 near Hunkap - 8 Sep 2010 His mother, Xpl-18
Upper Urunendis - age: 8 months Urunendis Spring - age: 16 months Uniab River - age: 2.6 years

Individual lions can be identified based on unique whisker spot patterns. A comprehensive database is maintained for all lions that are darted, observed and/or photographed. Although each individual is different, the characteristics of the spot patterns are hereditary (similar to all other living organisms). The whisker spot pattern of Xpl-73 shows an uncanny resemblance to that of his mother (Xpl-18).


13 Sep 2010. Hoaruseb lions. Following reports of an unknown lion in the Hoaruseb River, the radio-collared lions were located east of Leyland's Drift. The "unknown" lion turned out to be "Maya" (Xpl-61). Her radio collar had failed and is not transmitting a signal. Due to the difficult terrain, efforts to dart her and replace the faulty collar have failed. A field guide was developed for the Zeiss telescope to estimate darting range (see Logistics/Methods).

12 Sep 2020. Western Hoanib. In between servicing equipment and attending to overdue repairs, the western section of the Hoanib River was searched for signs of the other Hoanib and the Hoanib Floodplain lions.

10/11 Sep 2010. Equipment. After Xpl47 recovered from the immobilisation she and Xpl-59 moved to the south-east of Hunkap Spring, but they returned to the spring the following night. The GPS collar that was removed from Xpl-47 (after 2 years & 4 months) showed extensive wear, and the GPS antenna was damaged. The collar was repaired, a new battery was fitted and it was re-programmed. During the past few days more problems were experienced with the Pneu-dart system. The darts don't deliver the full dose and Xpl-73 had be to darted twice and "Bianca" four times. Funding is being sought to purchase the more superior "Dan-Inject" darting system.

Broken GPS antenna
Repairs to GPS antenna
Refurbished GPS collar
Dart failures cause unnecessary stress to lions

9 Sep 2010. Finally. After 27 days of searching, the missing Hoanib lions were tracked-down in the Hunkap erea. At 01h48 the lioness - Xpl47 ("Bianca") - was finally darted. Her faulty GPS radio collar was removed and replaced with a new satellite GPS collar.

8 Sep 2010. New Hunkap male. Early this morning the distant roars of a male lion was followed and the lion was spotted at 09h00. The whole day was spent observing him from a distance of more than a kilometre. At 20:30 the lion was darted and fitted with a GPS radio collar.

7 Sep 2010. Hunkap area. The search for the missing Hoanib lions (Xpl-47 "Bianca" and co.) have been extended south to the Hunkap River. It is an area that they rarely visit, but it has not yet been surveyed. During the past two weeks several tourism operators have reported observing lions near the Hunkap Spring.

6 Sep 2010. Strange creatures. Images and video of two strange creature were captured on one of the camera traps in the Hoanib River. Click on right images to view video clip (60 Kb, 6 sec).

4/5 Sep 2010. Auses. Xpl-10 and the two sub-adult lionesses have been spending a lot more time on the Hoanib Floodplain. They killed an oryx at Auses Spring (see red X on photo). The sub-adult male (Xpl-56) has not been observed with the lionesses for more than three weeks.

3 Sep 2010. Hoanib dunes. The tracks of three lionesses (presumably Xpl-10 & the sub-adults) were followed into the dunes west of the Floodplain and towards the Hoanib mouth. The electrical problems with the vehicle continued. See Camera Trap page for new images & video clips from the Hoanib Floodplain. The website statistics are now available for August 2010.

2 Sep 2010. Floodplain. More electrical problems were experienced with the Land Cruiser today, following the recent service in Swakopmund. The problem was repaired after a satellite telephone callwas made to JB Auto Repairs in Cape Town. The camera trap on the Hoanib Floodplain was checked and it provided an interesting image of Xpl-10 and the two sub-adult females moving through the area on 24 Aug 2010.

1 Sep 2010. 70's lionesses. The Okongwe area was search and the "70's" lionesses (a sub-group of the Hoanib Pride consisting of 4 lionesses: Xpl-70, 71 & 72) was located feeding on an oryx carcass. There was still no sign of the rest of the Hoanib Pride.