News - August 2011


28-30 Aug 2011. Data analysis. Whilst the Land Cruiser is being repaired in Swakopmund, the time was used to work on the new MacBook computer. The research data were retrieve from back-up disks and an analysis of the recent events were initiated. An assessment of the movements of the Hoaruseb lionesses, prior to the poisoning, produced interesting results. After Xpl-44 "Leonardo" was shot, the Hoaruseb lionesses did not venture outside the Hoaruseb River, but towards the end of 2010 they started moving north of Purros (blue square – top left map). This coincided with unusually high rainfall in the area that resulted in the dispersal of the antelope species (mainly oryx) that they prayed on in the Hoaruseb River. Conflict between the lions and the local communities was inevitable because the area north of Purros is inhabited by local people and their livestock. The loss of their pride male (Xpl-44) and the dispersal of the wildlife (due to the rains) appeared to have had an impact on the Hoaruseb lionesses as their movement patterns changed dramatically during this period. They ventured into new areas, but they also habitually returned to the area north of Purros, where they were poisoned (yellow circle - bottom right map).

Sep 2010 - Feb 2011
March 2011 - week 2 & 3
April 2001 - week 1 & 2
April 2011 - week 3 & 4
May 2001 - week 1 & 2
May 2001 - week 3 & 4
June 2011 - week 1 & 2
June 2011 - week 3 & 4
July 2011 - week 1 & 2

27 Aug 2011. Sponsorships. Various updates to the website are currently being made. Some of the recent sponsorships and donations, such as the repairs to the Land Cruiser in Cape Town during May 2011, a fuel sponsorship, and the donation of a new computer by Namibian tourism operators have been posted under Sponsors.

25/26 Aug 2011. Tire Report. The repairs to the Land Cruiser will require more time than initially expected and will hopefully be completed by 31 Aug 2011. A report has been compiled for Michelin, South Africa, on the donation of 14 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires during 2009 and 2010. The details of an analysis on the conditions and performance of the tires can be viewed under Land Cruiser Reports.

23/24 Aug 2011. Vehicle repairs II. The sound system, radio telemetry antennae, some of the solar panels and the roof rack had to be dismantled and removed from the Land Cruiser before repairs could begin. The "Tag" also had to be steam-cleaned to remove all the mud and soil underneath the vehicle before Swakop Body Works could make a good assessment of the problem. Their initial impression is that the rough terrain has taken its toll on the vehicle over the past few years. *Momxent*

22 Aug 2011. Vehicle repairs. The continuous driving in rough terrain has caused cracks to develop on the cab of the research vehicle (where it had previously been modified). During the past few days the cracks became worse and the roof started separating from the body (see photos). Fieldwork had to be stopped and the "Tag" (the Land Cruiser) will be driven to Swakopmund for repairs during the next 2-3 days. The weather conditions were most unusual for most of the day. There were east-winds and clear skies at Mowe Bay this morning (photo: top right), but at 10h00, 30 km further south, it started raining. For most of the day, en route to Swakopmund, there were showers of rain along the coast.

21 Aug 2011. Mowe Bay area. Equipment from the old base-camp at Werelrdsend was moved to the Mowe Bay Cabin. The Hoanib mouth and Floodplain was scanned for lion movements. Xpl-73 ("Rosh") was located, but the Floodplain lionesses were nowhere to be found.

19/20 Aug 2011. Searching for Xpl-51. The tracks of the adult male lion (presumably Xpl-51 - see 18 Aug 2011) have been observed and followed over a large area (approximately 1300 sqr km). The pattern of the lion's movements resembles the known home range of the Agab Pride, lending support to the hypothesis that the tracks are those of Xpl-51 and that he is searching for his coalition partner (possibly also his brother), covering all the places that they have recently visited. However, the efforts to find Xpl-51 have been unsuccessful, but a sub-group of the Agab Pride were located north of the Springbok River.

18 Aug 2011. Agab River. Large numbers of zebras were observed around the Agab River. The tracks of a male lion was followed from the Agab River to Wereldsend. The IRDNC staff at Wereldsend heard the lion roar continuously as me moved past the camp. It is likely that the lion is Xpl-51, and that he is looking for his partner (Xpl-50) that was shot for trophy hunting on 13 Aug 2011. Efforts are underway to locate and fit a radio collar to Xpl-51, so that his movements can be monitored.

17 Aug 2011. Hunkap male. There was no sign of the lions during the night. At sunrise the remains of a zebra carcass was found and the tracks confirmed that the lions had moved off two days ago. The Hunkap male (Xpl-54) was located at Haren spring in the Obab River. Images were retrieved from camera-traps mounted at Hunkap spring and in the Barab River (see below).

16 Aug 2011. Rhino carcass? A request was received late last night from Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) for assistance to investigate a possible rhino mortality. During a survey flight Bernd Brell (of SRT) spotted vultures and a rhino calf standing nearby, but due to thick vegetation it was not possible for Bernd to detect a carcass. He called for assistance to investigate the scene on the ground. Mr Erckie, the MET staff and the Police agreed to alter the original plans in order to investigate the incident. En route to the rhino location, a camera-trap mounted in the lower Hoanib (inside the Skeleton Coast Park) was checked and it revealed a photograph of a vehicle that entered the Park illegally on 13 Aug 2011. The authorities (MET and the Namibian Police) will be investigating the incident. The adult male lion (Xpl-73 "Rosh") was located near Amp's Poort and he allowed the three vehicles to approach close enough for everyone to enjoy a good sighting. The area where the rhino was observed was reached at 17:00. But by sunset no evidence of a rhino carcass or any illegal activity was found. However, there were many fresh lions tracks and the situation will be monitored during the night.

15 Aug 2011. Field trip. On request of the ranger staff of the Skeleton Coast Park, a 3-day trip is underway to guide them through the Hoanib Floodplain and point out the locations of the major springs and tracks. A delegation of the Namibian Police, under the supervision of Sgt. E Mangundu, is also present. The Chief Control Warden for both Etosha N. P. & the Skeleton Coast Park, Mr R Erckie, decided to join the expedition. We left from Mowe Bay at 15:00 and visited Oasis spring and Auses spring. Whilst the party was setting up camp on the western edge of the Floodplain, one of the Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-69) was located 12 km further east.

14 Aug 2011. Xpl-50 "Lez". In a climate where Human Wildlife Conflict is present, where financial benefits from wildlife to local communities is key to successful conservation, and where trophy hunting returns large sums of money, it is very difficult to get the point across that the hunting and killing of lions, especially of adult males, is not sustainable (see 2010 Report). The adult male (Xpl-50 "Lez") of the Agab Pride was shot for trophy hunting yesterday. It has also been confirmed that the lioness, Xpl-18, also of the Agab Pride, was trophy hunted during mid-June 2011 (see News 27 - 30 June 2011).

Xpl-73 "Rosh", one of last remaining adult males in the Desert lion population, was observed earlier this afternoon.

13 Aug 2011. Hoanib observations. The Floodplain lionesses killed a young oryx on the South bank of the Hoanib River, just west of the Mudorib tributary. Whilst they were feeding, the eastern section of the Hoanib River was searched for signs of Xpl-47 "Bianca" and the rest of the Hoanib Pride. A few tracks were spotted, but the Hoanib Pride could not be located. Upon return to the Floodplain Pride, the adult male (Xpl-73) was still mating with Xpl-55. *Momxent*

12 Aug 2011 pm. BGAN terminal. Efforts to repair the faulty BGAN satellite IP modem appears to have been successful, at least for the interim. The unit is not operating as it used to, but it has been possible to establish a link with the Inmarsat satellite at least once a day. Marc Haubert of Kupenda Safaris (one of the sponsors of the new MacBook Pro computer) was met in the Hoanib River near Amp's Poort. It was a pleasure to show Marc and his guest where the Floodplain pride was resting amongst the granite boulders. Despite the fact that the Floodplain lionesses are not used to vehicles, other that the "Tag" (the Land Cruiser), they allowed the two tourist vehicles to approach close enough for the guests to observe them.

12 Aug 2011 am. Xpl-10's cubs. It has now been confirmed that Xpl-10 has lost the two cubs that she gave birth to in Feb 2011 (see News 22 & 23 Mar 2011). The two younger lionesses also lost their cubs during the rains and Xpl-55 is currently mating again with Xpl-73 ("Rosh").

11 Aug 2011. Lions mating. During the night Xpl-55 moved in an easterly direction and joined up with the rest of the Floodplain Pride in the Hoanib River, approximately 10 km inside the Skeleton Coast Park. Xpl-55 was observed mating with "Rosh" (Xpl-73) on several occasions during the day.

10 Aug 2011. BGAN terminal. On 29 July 2011 the BGAN satellite IP modem stopped working (see News - 31 Jul 2011). This meant that daily updates from the field were no longer possible. However, many hours were spent every day trying to repair the modem. A breakthrough came this evening when a connection was made with the Inmarsat satellite and the website was updated from the Hoanib Floodplain. It is currently unclear if the problem has been fixed, or if the connection is purely due to luck. Attempts will be made to update the website every day, but in the event that it fails, please refer to the News entry of 31 Jul 2011.

10 Aug 2011. Floodplain lioness. Most of the day was spent following the tracks of a lioness that moved from Auses towards Amp's Poort. One of the young Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-55) was located during the late afternoon. There was no sign of the rest of the Floodplain Pride.

9 Aug 2011. Floodplain Camera-trap. The Hoanib Floodplain was reached at sunset. The tracks of several elephants, lions, brown hyaenas, giraffes and a vehicle were observed before it became too dark to drive. Images were retrieved from a camera-trap (see photos, bottom row) that reflected the spoor observations, including identification photographs of the vehicle that illegally entered the Skeleton Coast Park. The information will be handed over to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism for further investigation.

8 Aug 2011. Uniab. A report of lions at the mouth of the Uniab River was investigated. Several hours were spent walking amongst the tributaries of the Uniab delta. There were no signs of recent lion movements, but several fresh tracks of brown hyaenas were found. It is likely that the fishermen/tourists visiting Terrace Bay confused the tracks of the brown hyaenas with those of lions.

7 Aug 2011. New computer. The commitment to conservation and active support of wildlife research efforts by some of the smaller tourism companies in Namibia are extraordinary. Felix Vallat, a French-speaking tour operator in Namibia, rallied support from several other tour operators to sponsor a new computer for the Desert Lion Project. Each of the tour operators contributed and they purchased a brand new MacBook Pro for the Project. The computer was received last night. A detailed list of the contributors and acknowledgement of this remarkable donation will follow. *Moment*

6 Aug 2011. On-line. On 31 Jul 2011 the computer failed altogether and no further website updates were possible. News on the developments during this period, including the remarkable donation of a brand new MacBook Pro by local tourism operators, will be posted during the next 24 hours.

5 Aug 2011. Ministry of Environment & Tourism. Since the Mowe Bay Cabin became the operational base of the Desert Lion Project, interactions and collaboration with the staff of the Skeleton Coast Park have increased. A combined field-trip with the Park Warden and several other staff members is planned for 15-18 Aug 2011. The Protected Resource Unit of the Namibian Police have launched a detailed investigation into the poisoning of the Huaruseb lionesses. A meeting with the PRU will take place during the next week.

4 Aug 2011. Prey animals return. Following the high rainfall during March/April 2001, that caused the antelope species to disperse, large numbers of oryx and springbok are returning to the Hoanib Floodplain and the western section of the desert.

3 Aug 2011. Rhino Camp. The Agab lions have been spending a lot of time around the Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp and were seen walking through the Camp and lying near the accommodation tents. The staff of Desert Rhino Camp became concerned for their safety. The area was visited to assess the potential problem. Nothing appeared out of the order - the lions are frequenting the area because of a concentration of wildlife around the Camp. To ensure the safety of the guest and the staff, guidelines were given to the Camp manager (Helen Awa-Eises) on how to behave when the lions are nearby. The fact that lions and other animals move freely through the Desert Rhino Camp is actually a reflection on how well it blends in with the surroundings, and if managed well the presence of lions could provide the visiting guests with a unique experience.

1 Aug 2011. Sand storms. Severe winds and sand storms continued to rage. The Floodplain lions remained huddled-up throughout the storm and only got up occasionally to shake off the layers of sand that accumulated on them.