News - June 2011

Jun

30 Jun 2011. Xpl-18 ? All efforts to locate Xpl-18 (the "grandmother" of the Agab Pride) have thus far failed. There is now reason to believe that she may have been shot for trophy hunting several weeks ago. Xpl-18 is the last known survivor of the original "founding" lionesses (along with Xpl-5 & Xpl-17) and, if still alive, she would be 15.5 years old.

30 Jun 2011. Xpl-51. Observations on the Agab Pride continued. It was confirmed that the second pride male is Xpl-51. He is the coalition partner of "Lez" (Xpl-50) and they were first darted at Kai-Ais spring in Apr 2009 (see News - 28 Jun 2011). Closer inspection of the GPS collar of Xpl-50 revealed that the unit recorded movement data for only three months, before it failed.

29 Jun 2011. Agab Pride. Observations on the Agab Pride have been difficult because of all the grass. But, the scenery is beautiful and valuable data have been collected for the genealogy database and on the status of the Pride.

28 Jun 2011. "Lez." In 2009 Sally and Lez Weintrobe donated a satellite GPS collar and during their visit to the Project we darted two male lions on 13 Apr 2009. A GPS collar was fitted to Xpl-50 and he was named "Lez". A month later the two lions "disappeared" and the radio collar of Xpl-50 could not be tracked again. But, from sightings and photographs taken by Wilderness Safaris and SRT it was possible to identify Xpl-50 on three occasions and it was suspected that his GPS collar had failed. Last night Xpl-50 was located again after two years. He was darted, the damaged GPS collar was removed and replaced with a VHF radio collar. Efforts are underway to see if the GPS collar captured any movement data during the two years.*Moment*

27 Jun 2011. Agab Report. A report was received from Wilderness Safaris of lion activities in the Agab River (the area where Xpl-68 was first marked). The two sisters of Xpl-68 ("Faye" & "Ansie") and Xpl-36 were located after a time consuming effort. The recent rains have produced so much grass and vegetation that it was quite difficult to find the lions. Two examples are presented below. 1) In the top left image - if you can spot the lion in the grass, click on the image to reveal the lion. 2) In the bottom left image - try to spot the lioness, then click on the play button to reveal four sequential photographs as she moved into the open.

26 Jun 2011. Hartebeest. The computer problem (mentioned on 23 Jun 2011) is currently restricting data recording and the frequency of website updates. A lone red hartebeest was observed near Slangpos in the Huab River. This is most unusual because the species does not occur here. As a result of the high rainfall and abundant vegetation, this individual may have moved down the Huab River from the Outjo or Omaruru areas. The tracks of the male lion (Xpl-68) were found close to Peter's Pool, but he could not be located because of the rocky terrain.

25 Jun 2011. Springbok movements. A number of big groups of springboks were observed moving through the Huab Valley. One group was estimated at 2000 individuals (see animation below) and in another group there may have been 3000 animals.

24 Jun 2011. Tracking Xpl-68. The "black-screen" computer problem is getting worse, but it was possible to get it going again this afternoon in order to download photos and prepare this website update. The tracks of Xpl-68 were followed for +14 km as he moved westwards along the Huab River. Details of his behaviour were deduced from the tracks, by determining the gait (the sequence of foot placements) and the speed of locomotion (distances between the tracks). Xpl-68 passed through the bottleneck at Peter's Pool and it was not possible to follow him further.

23 Jun 2011. NOTIFICATION. Problems have been experienced with the MacBook Pro computer. If the problem persists it may not be possible to update the website until such time as the problem can be repaired.

23 Jun 2011. Huab lion. The Krone cattle post was reach during the early evening. The night was spent monitoring the area and at dawn the radio signal of Xpl-68 (the male lion that was darted near Krone on 8 Apr 2011) was picked up south of the Huab River. By midday it was confirmed that the lion was resting high up and somewhere in the middle of a mountain range (see animation below), but he could not be spotted.

22 Jun 2011. Peter's Pool. The entire day was spent walking and negotiating a route around Peter's Pool. A female cheetah with three large cubs were spotted at a distance, but they soon disappeared amongst the rocks.

21 Jun 2011. Struggles in the Huab River. Massive floods during late April 2011 had completely changed the lower Huab River, and the track running from Scott Bridge to the SCP border was non-existent. A new track had to be made, whilst trying to follow the course of the original track. The passage through Peter's Pool is currently not usable. Efforts to find an old track that runs along the southern bank of the river was complicated by the tall grass. At dusk the search had to be stopped.

20 Jun 2011. Scott Bridge. A report was received from Johann Cloete at Damaraland Camp (Wilderness Safaris) about lions killing livestock near the new Wilderness camp at Krone in the Huab River. The whole day was spent driving southwards to the mouth of the Huab River, crossing the Scott Bridge (see below), and then following the course of the River towards Krone, whilst scanning the area for signs of lion movements.

19 Jun 2011. Mowe Bay. A brief stop was made at the Mowe Bay Cabin, before continuing with the coastal survey. The radio signal of Xpl-69 (one of the young Floodplain lionesses) was picked-up near Oasis spring and she was spotted at a distance, resting amongst the hummocks. The Land Cruiser is running as smoothly as its new nickname (the "Tag") would suggest.

16-18 Jun 2011. Coastal survey. A detailed survey is being conducted along the coastline for signs of recent movements by lions. The survey started at the Omaruru River and involves systematically checking all the major washes and ephemeral rivers for tracks, and scanning for all the radio telemetry frequencies. Due to the high rainfall the area is covered with grass and succulent plants and there are regular concentrations of oryx & springbok along the coast. Near the mouth of the Hunkap River the tracks of a male lion were observed. The tracks were +10 days old and the wind had obliterated most of the tracks, but it appeares as if the lion moved along the beach in a northernly direction. *Moment*

15 Jun 2011. Lunar Eclipse...

13-14 Jun 2011. Midnight Oil. Corrosion was found in most of the wiring and connections of the vehicle's solar power system. The entire electrical structure was replaced. New additions and modifications to the "Tag" include: permanent mounting of the GoLight, a new radio telemetry antenna, mounting & cables, a new spare fuel-pump, wiring for additional lights and chargers, and a complete rebuild of the door-mount tripod system. Long hours have been spent getting the vehicle ready for fieldwork, and even though it has been frustrating at times, the value of a functional and well equipped field vehicle will be well worth the efforts.

10-12 Jun 2011. Extra modifications. In the sprit of the quality of work that was done in Cape Town, getting the Land Cruiser ready for fieldwork turned out to be a much bigger job than expected. Preventative maintenance was done to the solar power and radio telemetry systems by replacing all corroded cables and connectors. Many modifications are also being made to the brackets and equipment inside and outside the vehicle.

7-9 Jun 2011. Preparing "The Tag". All the equipment, solar power, sound system and other peripherals that were removed for the trip to Cape Town are being fitted. Despite an eagerness to return to the desert and find the lions, the opportunity is used to make a few improvements to the Land Cruiser and to build on the fantastic work that was done to the vehicle in Cape Town. *Moment*

4-6 Jun 2011. Return to Namibia. The repairs and improvements by JB's Auto Repairs, R&D Off-Road and Power-Flow have effectively transformed the Land Cruiser into a "new" vehicle. During the return journey the Cruiser acquired the nickname "The Tag" (after Tag Heuer) - because it felt like it ran with the smoothness and precision of a Swiss watch. Many individuals contributed to the process, Some have already been acknowledged (see below), but a more comprehensive list will follow. The Desert Lion Project would however like to thank Johann Meyer and Adolf Huester in particular for their efforts.

Sunrise near Clanwilliam
Receiving the vehicle from Johann Meyer (Photo by "Die Burger")
The return trip through southern Namibia

31 May / 1 Jun 2011. Land Cruiser repaired. The repairs, servicing and maintenance on the Land Cruiser have now been completed. The quality of the work, the attention to detail and the "personal touch" by JB's Auto Repairs, R&D Off-Road and Power-Flow were exceptional. The efforts of Johann Meyer, Chris Ingram and Roddy Newsham are acknowledged - they transformed the Land Cruiser (battered by 120,000 kms of harsh off-road conditions) into a "new" vehicle that is now even better equipped for the conditions than before. Details of the repairs, upgrades and improvements will be presented shortly. At this time, however, the Desert Lion Project would like thank Adolf Huester, Johann Meyer, Chris Ingram and the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa for their efforts and support.

The Desert Lion Project received additional support and assistance from many sources during the long stay in Cape Town, and these are acknowledged. In particular, the Project would like to thank Daan du Plessis (for transport & accommodation in Gordon's Bay), Adolf Huester (for a visit to Jhb), Eben Human (Die Burger), Dr Etienne Bruwer, Dr Freddie Senekal, Marnette Meyer, Elzette du Preez (De Grendel Wineries), Bernd & Frauke Sander, Jonathan Tee, Tony Kruger (Snap-On) & the iStore at V&A Waterfront. *Moment*

Final repairs to the front brakes
The "NEW" Land Cruiser
JB Meyer (jr), P Stander & Johann Meyer
The team at JB's Auto Repairs
Johann Meyer giving the vehicle a final touch
Sunset in Gordon's Bay
The view from De Grendel this afternoon during lunch with Eben Human, Elzette du Preez & Etienne Bruwer