News - September 2011

Sep

29/30 Sep 2011. Summary. During September 2011 a total of 27 days were invested to locate specific lions in order to fit new radio collars and replace faulty radio collars. Despite exhaustive efforts the mission was unsuccessful. A total of 2052 km were driven (average 76 km/day, maximum of 531 km) and a total of 465 hours were spent searching for lions (average 17.2 Hr/day). The movement animation (below) presents the "real-time" movements of the Land Cruiser during this period.

28 Sep 2011. Searching. Efforts to locate members of the Aub, Agab & Obab Prides continued by scanning sections of the Karkappie, Awaxas, Kawakap, Koabis & Uniab Rivers. The elevation of hilltops and mountaintops have been used to maximise the range of the radio telemetry equipment.

27 Sep 2011. Thunder storms. The radio signal of Xpl-62 was heard briefly from a high hilltop near the Awaxas River, but she could not be located. There was a big build-up of clouds in the late afternoon and during the night the eastern skies were lit-up by dramatic lighting storms and rolling thunder. Information was received from Mr Klaus Schubert that flash floods had already reached the eastern part of the Hoanib River.

26 Sep 2011. Day 21. Since 4 Sep 2011 a total of 21 days (11 & 10 consecutive days) have been invested, without success, in searching for and attempting to immobilise lions to replace faulty radio collars. It is feared that some of the radio collars of the lions in question may also have failed. The panoramic animation (below) shows the landscape to the south and east of the Urunendis River, as seen from the viewpoint near the old Desert Lion base-camp and airstrip.

25 Sep 2011. Lightning. During the past 24 hours, 531 km were driven in search of eight radio collared lions. This is a considerable distance over the rough terrain of the Aub, Barab, Urunedis, Obab, Beacon and Uniab Rivers, but none of the lions could be located. There was a build-up of rain clouds in the late afternoon, and during the night (after midnight) a lot of lightning was observed far towards the West - possibly over the ocean. It is most unusual to have thunderstorms this far west during September. These events normally occur at the end of the rainy season (March - April). *Moment*.

24 Sep 2011. Barab River. Despite the large numbers of wildlife presently in the Barab River, it has not been possible to locate any lions. All three radio collars, fitted to the resident lions, appeared to have failed. This is a serious setback, because finding lions in the vast and mountainous terrain, without the aid of radio telemetry, is a daunting task.

23 Sep 2011. Heat. The East winds died down during the night. The morning was greeted by overcast skies, but temperatures reached 39.2ยบ C by midday. The search for lions in the upper Barab continued.

22 Sep 2011. Wind. Strong easterly winds started at 09h30 and raged throughout the day. It was difficult to scan the area for lion tracks or any other signs of recent lion movements. Large concentrations of zebra, oryx & springbok were observed on the water-divide between the Barab & Obab Rivers.

21 Sep 2011. Top Barab. The search for the rest of the Aub Pride and the Hunkap Pride, including Xpl-53 "Charlotte", has been extended to the top section of the Barab River. There are large numbers of wildlife in the area (oryx, zebras, kudus & elephants).

20 Sep 2011. Second night. Another night was spent monitoring the zebra carcass. The male leopard and several spotted hyaenas fed on the carcass during the night, but there were no signs of lion movements in the area.

19 Sep 2011. Zebra carcass. Vultures were spotted in the Kawakap River and a zebra carcass was found. The leopard (observed yesterday) had been feeding on the carcass. A camera-trap was mounted at the carcass. The area was monitored during the night in case lions visit the carcass.

18 Sep 2011. Leopard. The broken terrain made it difficult to get close enough to Xpl-65 to download the movement data from her GPS collar. She was monitored during the night (by listening to the radio signal), but at 04h00 she crossed a high mountain and disappeared. The radio telemetry signal of Xpl-65 has not been picked up again. A leopard was spotted on the rocky plains near the Kawakap River.

16-17 Sep 2011. Basalt rocks. With the waning gibbous moon, attention has been turned to the lions that live in the rocky terrain of the Etendeka Basalts. The northern tributaries of the Uniab River, such as the Aub, Barab, Urunendis & Obab Rivers, will be surveyed. Xpl-65 "Leica" was located on the north bank of the Uniab River. *Moment*.

15 Sep 2011. Cheetah near Mowe Bay. A young male cheetah was observed on the edge on the dunes between the Floodplain and the mouth of the Hoanib River. A day was spent at the Mowe Bay Cabin giving a training course to a scientist of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism on sound playback technology.

14 Sep 2011. Last full moon effort. The Hoanib River and associated tributaries west of the Ganamub were searched in vain during a last effort to locate the Hoanib lionesses over the full moon period. They could not be located, but the Floodplain lionesses were found back on the eastern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain after an extended excursion to the north of the Hoanib River.

13 Sep 2011. Radio collar failure. It was a long night under perfect moonlight conditions, but it soon became apparent that something was amiss with Xpl-59. At daylight it was determined that she had lost her radio collar due to a structural flaw. This also explains the problems that developed with her collar a year ago. Finding Xpl-59 again is going to be a massive undertaking.

12 Sep 2011. Surprises. After a 16-hour effort the male lion was located and he turned out to be Xpl-73 ("Rosh"). His extensive wanderings are becoming more frequent as he visits at least four different groups of lionesses (where there are no pride males). These excursions are also taking him into the areas used by people for grazing livestock, where there is the risk of getting shot or poisoned, like the previous Hoanib male (Xpl-3) and Hoaruseb male (Xpl-44). By a real stroke of luck an important Hoanib lioness (Xpl-59, also known as "E=MC^2") was located this afternoon. She is extremely skittish and have only been seen once (when she was darted on 10 Sep 2009 - see photos). Her radio collar developed a problem more than a year ago and it was discovered today that the range on the collar is <150 metres.

12 Sep 2011. Full Moon period. Efforts have been focussed on locating and darting several lions with faulty radio collars in the Hoanib/Okongwe area (lions that may move to the vacant Hoaruseb area) during the full moon period. The conditions are ideal to work without any artificial lights from the first quarter, throughout the waxing gibbous phases, and up to the second night after full moon. Thus far the efforts have not been successful, but a male lion's tracks were picked up in the Obias River yesterday evening and followed to Dubis.

11 Sep 2011. Towards the Hoanib. The tracks of two lionesses were followed from Okongwe via the Obias River and south towards the Hoanib River. Working in the rocky terrain over the past few days had an impact on the Land Cruiser's tires. One specific tire (ID no. A3 - see 3rd Report to MIchelin, under Land Cruiser Reports) that showed remarkable endurance, was damaged beyond repair. This BFG Mud Terrain tire did 23,746 km and had four punctures.

10 Sep 2011. Okongwe waterhole. A new water-point for wildlife in the Okongwe mountains has been developed by Chris Ayre (for IRDNC). The waterhole falls inside the "wildlife area" of the Purros Conservancy. IRDNC and Chris Ayre are congratulated for a well-built and low-maintenance structure that blends in with the surroundings. This reliable source of water will be of great benefit to the wildlife populations in the area and, in time, may result in the lions forming a new pride. Efforts to locate the Hoanib Pride and the 70's lionesses have not been successful, but the Hoanib Floodplain lionesses were observed in the southwestern section of the Okongwe area.

9 Sep 2011. Hoaruseb lions. Monitoring of the lions that could likely fill the vacancy left by the poisoning of the Hoaruseb lions have been intensified. It was suggested on 19 Jul 2011 that Xpl-10 and the Floodplain lionesses may expand their home range to the Hoaruseb River (see News - July 2011). The movements of the Floodplain lionesses for the past two months are presented below. During the past two weeks, they have spent a significant amount of time far north of the Hoanib River (yellow markers).

8 Sep 2011. Sima Hill. The Floodplain lionesses were located east of Sima Hill. They were feeding on an oryx that they had killed earlier this morning.

7 Sep 2011. Hoanib monitoring. The Hoanib lionesses were joined by their 9-10 month old cubs. They then moved into the mountains north of the Hoanib and could not be located again. Images were retrieved from a camera-trap (bottom three photos) and the area was scanned for signs of the Hoanib Floodplain Pride. See *Moment* for a panoramic animation of Xpl-73 "Rosh" & the Hoanib Floodplain (344 Kb).

6 Sep 2011. Hoanib Pride. The Hoanib lionesses were located near the Mudorib River. To replace their faulty radio collars, most of the night was spent trying to dart Xpl-47 and/or Xpl-59. They are extremely skittish and many hours were spent waiting for an opportunity. At 01:44, a lioness (possibly Xpl-59) moved past the vehicle and she was darted with the aid of the fading moonlight. Disappointingly the darted lioness and Xpl-47 moved into a dense shrub-mopane thicket when the drugs took affect and could not be reached without risking serious damage to the Land Cruiser. After 1.5 hours the anaesthetics had worn off, but the lionesses remained inside the thicket. A camera-trap mounted in the Hoanib River captured a total of 12 images of Xpl-73 "Rosh" during his wonderings of the past week.

5 Sep 2011. Xpl-73. The tracks of an adult male lion were observed at many locations along the Hoanib River and the surrounding areas. Xpl-73 "Rosh" was found south of the Hoanib Floodplain. The viewpoint of Xpl-73 looking down onto the Floodplain can be seen below. The movement data were downloaded from his GPS collar and it was confirmed that all the lion tracks observed during the past two days were those of Xpl-73. During the previous six days he walked a total distance of 160 km at an average of 26.3 km per day.

2-4 Sep 2011. Return to Hoanib. Repairs to the Land Cruiser was completed in Swakopmund on Friday afternoon. The equipment (roof rack, sound system, solar panels & radio telemetry antennae) were fitted and Mowe Bay was reached at 04h20 on 3 Sep 2011. Mr Koos Theron of Swakop Body Works is thanked for the repairs to the Cruiser and for a major discount on the costs (see photos below - move your mouse over the photos). The camera-trap in the Hoanib Floodplain captured images of Xpl-73 ("Rosh") on 29 Aug 2011 and several images of brown hyaenas and other small carnivores.

1 Sep 2011. Lions in Gamatum. The work required to repair the cab of the Land Cruiser turned out to be more intensive and time consuming than was expected. The vehicle is now expected to be ready by tomorrow. Reports were received that lions (most likely the 70s lionesses) killed a donkey in the Gamatum River (a tributary to the Hoaruseb River). It has been somewhat frustrating not to be able to investigate the incident, but fortunately Tommy Hall (Kunene Conservancy Safaris) is in the area and kindly offered to monitor the situation. *Moment*