News - 2012

Aug

August

31 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 returns to Hoanib. The Hoanib River (from the Mudorib junction to the mouth) was searched for the Floodplain Pride, Xpl-73 “Rosh” and the Hoanib Pride, but none of the lions could be located. The Huab male (Xpl-68) continued moving north during the night and reached the Hoanib River at 10h20 this morning. At 13h00 he was resting 10 km west of Amp’s Poort, after walking 50.1 km since leaving the Hunkap River at 20h00 last night.

30 Aug 2012. Lion Movements. The old GPS collar, removed from “Charlotte” (Xpl-53), was taken apart and it was possible to retrieve valuable movement data for almost five months - from 5 May 2009 (when the collar was fitted) to 22 Sep 2009. During this period of 140 days, the movements of Xpl-53 were restricted to a 646 km^2 area in the mountains of the upper Hunkap, Barab, Aub & Obeb Rivers. She moved a total distance of 863 km at an average of 6.2 km per day (max: 22.2 km). The new satellite collars of Xpl-53 and the male (Xpl-81) are already returning valuable data. African Wildlife Tracking are thanked for activating the new position-schedule after the collars were fitted.

On 25 Aug 2012 it was suggested that the Huab male (Xpl-68) was heading back to the Huab River. This was a mistake. And it shows once again how unpredictable the movement patterns of lions in the desert habitat can be. After feeding on the Oryx carcass in the upper Beacon River, Xpl-68 headed north again and walked 42.7 km back to the Hunkap River.

Xpl-53 "Charlotte" - May to Sep 2009 Xpl-68 Huab male - 28 to 30 Aug 2012

29 Aug 2012. CHARLOTTE. A breakthrough was made three years ago when a young lioness (Xpl-53) was darted at the Hunkap spring and fitted with a GPS collar (see 5 May 2009). Very little is known about the lions that live in the Hunkap area and there were high hopes that this lioness, named “Charlotte”, will provide valuable information on the numbers and movements of the Hunkap lions. Unfortunately her GPS collar failed a few weeks later. Significant resources and time were devoted during the past three years to finding “Charlotte”. Last night at 00h08 the efforts finally paid off when Xpl-53 was located in the eastern tributaries of the Mudorib River. She was darted and fitted with the first female satellite collar from African Wildlife Tracking. Another breakthrough was made at 03h58 when an adult male was darted and fitted with a satellite collar. Xpl-81 is possibly the brother of Xpl-73 “Rosh”. During the past few months he has moved to the Hoanib River and joined up with “Rosh”.

28 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 kill Oryx. The Barab male (Xpl-74) was observed in the Uniab River close to the junction with the Aub River (photos: top row). The Huab male (Xpl-68) was located in the upper reaches of the Beacon River where he was lying on an Oryx carcass (see 26 Aug 2012). Xpl-68 remained at the carcass throughout the night.

27 Aug 2012. Aub/Barab Males. The Obab Pride lionesses (Xpl-22 & 45) were located on a zebra carcass near the junction of the Aub & Barab Rivers. The movement data from the GPS collar of Xpl-45 (“Lovechild”) were downloaded. During the night the two Aub/Barab males (see 7 Aug 2012) chased the lionesses off the carcass. Both males were darted and a VHF radio collar was fitted to Xpl-80. The two Obab lionesses returned to the remains of the carcass at sunrise. The Huab male (Xpl-68) is still at the same location and only moved 500 metres during the night.

26 Aug 2012. Vehicle repaired. The left rear wheel housing of the Land Cruiser was damaged when the Hi-Lift jack collapsed. After being stranded for 23 hours the vehicle was repaired. IRDNC and Wilderness Safaris are thanked for their help and Wilderness Safaris provided an old Hi-Lift jack that can be used to repair the damaged jack. A camera-trap was mounted at an Oryx carcass killed by a leopard near Wereldsend. The leopard returned to the carcass at 14h17 yesterday afternoon (photo: bottom left), but took a dislike in the camera and dislodged it from its mounting. The Huab male (Xpl-68) continued moving south during the night, but at 21h00 he encountered something of interest (such as a carcass or other lions) and he was still at the same location by 12h00 today.

25 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 turn back. The Huab male started heading south towards the Huab River last night at 21h00. He walked 49.6 km and reached Crowthersquelle (just south of the Obab River) by midday. The Land Cruiser was driven to Wereldsend this morning in order to refuel. Whilst attempting to remove and repair a flat tire, the Hi-Lift jack snapped and broke. Efforts are being made to source another jack.

24 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 in Hunkap River. After joining the lioness “Nina” (Xpl-49), the Huab male (Xpl-68) spent yesterday at the Hunkap spring (see bottom left). During the night he moved westwards, following the course of the Hunkap River. Over the past two nights (since midday on 22 Aug 12) he walked 28.9 km.

23 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 meets "Nina". Xpl-68 reached the Hunkap spring last night at 22h45. A spotted hyaena and several black-backed jackals were feeding on a springbok carcass that was killed by a cheetah earlier during the afternoon. Xpl-68 displaced the other carnivores and started feeding on the remains. At 23h30 the lioness Xpl-49 (“Nina”) arrived at the scene (see photo: bottom right). The interaction between the two lions was peaceable, although Xpl-68 did have to endure a few slaps to the face, but he didn’t retaliate. Xpl-68 appears to have recovered from the injuries he sustained during his interaction with Xpl-10 on 17 Aug 2012.

22 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 move southwards. After spending six days in the Hoanib Floodplain, the Huab male (Xpl-68) started heading south again at 00h30 this morning. He first ventured northwards towards Sima Hill and then moved in a southwesterly direction towards Hunkap spring. At 09h00 this morning he had walked 51.1 km, but he was still on the move. The Hoanib Pride (including Xpl-59 and Xpl-47) were located in the Mudorib River.

21 Aug 2012. Searching for the Hoanib lions. An extensive search for the Hoanib lions, which extended throughout the night, was launched after receiving reports that the lions killed a cow close to Elephant Song. Although many recent tracks of the lions were found, none of the radio-collared could thus far be located. A camera-trap was mounted at the Ganamub Poort, but it only captured images of one brown hyaena. The Huab male (Xpl-68) moved 10.3 km during the night and is still on the Hoanib Floodplain. Notice: the new firewall system installed to prevent unnecessary traffic via the BGAN Internet connection is still not working properly and it is not possible to send emails.

20 Aug 2012. Hoanib Pride. Xpl-68 moved another 7.2 km during the night and is now resting in the southwest corner of the Hoanib Floodplain. Xpl-10 & the Floodplain Pride have moved north of the Floodplain. Efforts are now underway to locate Xpl-73 (“Rosh”) and the rest of the Hoanib lions. A caracal was photographed by one of the camera-traps in the Hoanib River.

19 Aug 2012. Tension on the Floodplain. Xpl-10 and the Floodplain lionesses have stashed the cubs somewhere in the granite boulders and have kept a careful watch, from high vantage points, on the movements of the male (Xpl-68) lower down in the Floodplain. Xpl-68 is still limping badly and nursing the injuries sustained from his confrontation with Xpl-10 and the other lionesses. He moved 5.1 km during the night and is currently resting in a cave approximately 3 km east of Auses spring.

18 Aug 2012. Stalemate on the Floodplain. When Xpl-68 returned from his scuffle with the Floodplain lionesses yesterday morning, he was injured and limping (see photo: top right). He spent the whole day lying in a rock crevice and only emerged at 23h00. He moved 1.2 km to the middle of the Floodplain and is still in the same position (n = 15 hours). Xpl-68’s movements since arriving on the Floodplain are displayed by the map below (total distance = 16.1 km). The Floodplain lionesses returned to the area at sunrise this morning. All five cubs were fine and only Xpl-10 showed signs of a fight (she was limping slightly). The three lionesses spent most of the morning lying on a ridge and watching Xpl-68 on the Floodplain from a distance of 2.1 kilometres.

17 Aug 2012. Conflict on the Floodplain. Shortly before sunset the Floodplain lionesses and their cubs were located on a fresh Oryx kill on the northern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain and 4.8 km from where Xpl-68 was resting during the day. The decision was made to stay with the lionesses and to observe the events at the carcass if Xpl-68 were to find them. All five cubs are healthy and in excellent condition (see photos: top row - move mouse over top right photo). During the night the signal from Xpl-68’s radio collar faded as he moved towards the west, but by sunrise he started moving closer. The lionesses and cubs were unaware of the approaching male as the signal from Xpl-68’s collar became louder and louder. Xpl-10 first noticed the approaching male and the lionesses and cubs fled into the granite boulders (see photos: bottom row). Xpl-68 chased after them but, because of the sensitive terrain, it was not possible to follow the lions. There was a serious confrontation between Xpl-68 and the Floodplain lionesses (based on the sounds and the tracks that were observed later). When Xpl-68 returned two hours later, he was limping badly and crawled into a narrow rock crevice. He has not moved for the past 7 hours. The Floodplain lionesses moved away and could not be located.

16 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 reaches Hoanib Floodplain. At 20h40 last night, Xpl-68 started moving north again. He reached the Hoanib River, just west of Amp’s Poort, at 04h30 and then followed the river westwards to the Floodplain. He stopped moving at 12h00 during a sandstorm, after covering a distance of 53.1 km, and is currently resting in the shade and protection of the Ohima Mountain. The whereabouts of the Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-10 & co.) is currently unknown and their radio signals of have not yet been picked up. The interaction between Xpl-68 and the Floodplain lionesses with their five male cubs (if and when they meet for the first time) will be interesting and efforts will be made to observe & document the event.

15 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 continues north. The past two nights were spent waiting near the Oryx carcass hoping to observe the mystery lions and possibly dart “Charlotte” (if present) to replace her faulty radio collar. But, it appears that Xpl-68 displaced them because they did not return to the carcass. At 03h30 this morning, Xpl-68 continued moving further north. By 14h00 he walked another 20.9 km and was observed on the gravel plains from a distance of several kilometres. Since Xpl-68 left the Huab River on 7 Aug 2012 he has walked 207 km and is now 142 km directly northwest (as the crow flies) from the area he occupied over the previous 18 months. Were in not for the satellite collar fitted to him on 14 Jul 2012, we would not have been aware of this extraordinary movement.

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14 Aug 2012. Xpl-68 meet Charlotte? Xpl-68 was located on an Oryx carcass 1.5 km north of the Hunkap River and approximately 20 km from the coast. It was difficult to negotiate the rough terrain and to observe the lion because of thick fog that reduced visibility to a few hundred metres. Xpl-68 did not kill the Oryx. The fresh tracks of six lions were followed yesterday for >10 km as they moved down the Hunkap River. The six lions captured the Oryx early on 13 Aug 2012 and Xpl-68 must have heard the commotion and met-up with them. It is suspected that the six lions are part of Xpl-53’s group.

 Xpl-53 or “Charlotte” was fitted with a GPS collar on 5 May 2009. She was last observed in Jun 2009 with 2 adult females and three small cubs. Her radio collar failed shortly after that and she has not been seen since. The camera-trap at Hunkap spring captured several photographs of six lions a few weeks ago (see bottom row photos). One of the lionesses appears to have a black radio collar and could possibly be Xpl-53. The tracks of the lions that killed the Oryx matched the group-structure of those on the camera-trap photos.

13 Aug 2012. Extraordinary Xpl-68. The sudden movement of the Huab Male (Xpl-68) from the Huab River to the Uniab River (see 11 Aug 2012) was unusual and totally unexpected. But, his movements during the past 24 hours have been even more surprising. At 21h00 on 11 Aug 2012, after feeding on the Oryx, he continued moving north along the dune-belt towards the Hunkap River. During the midday heat he rested in the Karugaiseb River and continued again at 17h00. By 05h00 this morning he was in the Hunkap River, after walking 54.8 kilometres.

12 Aug 2012. Spectacular Light. The Huab Male (Xpl-68) remained with his Oryx carcass throughout the night. There were no other lions present. The night was unusually cold with strong southwesterly winds. The colours on the dunes at sunrise near the mouth of the Samanab River were particularly beautiful.

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11 Aug 2012. Huab Male. The more we study and learn about the Desert lions, the less we seem to understand their behaviour and movement patterns. The satellite collar fitted to the Huab male (Xpl-68) on 14 Jul 2012 revealed an unusual and totally unexpected movement during the past 2 days. For the past year, Xpl-68 has been moving around Peter’s Pool in the Huab River, with occasional visits to the Ugab River. At 23h00 on 7 Aug 2012, he suddenly vacated the Huab area and moved in a northwesterly direction. During a 40-hour period he covered a distance of 130.7 km, where he killed an Oryx in the Uniab River (9 km from the coast) at 15h00 on 9 Aug 2012 (see map below).

9-10 Aug 2012. Obab to Hoanib. The tracks of an adult male lion (presumably Xpl-54) were found in the lower Obab and Uniab Rivers, but the lion could not be located. Two new satellite radio collars were received from African Wildlife Tracking and the initial tests produced good results. The collars will be fitted to key lions in the Hoanib / Okongwe / Hunkap area during the next two weeks. An African Hawk Eagle was observed in the Uniab River.

8 Aug 2012. Barab to Obab. The Barab, Urunendis, Uniab, Beacon and Obab Rivers were surveyed for signs of the Barab, Hunkap and Obab lions. Photos were downloaded from two camera-traps in the Barab and Obab Rivers. A male leopard was photographed several times in the lower Barab River.

7 Aug 2012. Aub/Barab lions. The new alternator for the Land Cruiser was received from Russell Vinjevold (Kunene Conservancy Safaris) this morning. Wilderness Safaris kindly provided transportation to collect the item at Wereldsend. Jan Slabbert, from the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa, also offered a spare alternator and assistance to help repair the vehicle. Minutes after the vehicle was repaired a report was received of 12 lions near the Aub River. The location was reached at sundown and several lions of the Aub Pribe, including Xpl-52, Xpl-65 and two young adult males, were observed moving towards the Barab River.

4-6 Aug 2012. Vehicle Problems. The field vehicle broke down several times during the past few days. Wilderness Safaris assisted by towing the vehicle to a secure location. With assistance from Adolf & Michael Huester it was established that the alternator has failed. A replacement unit was sourced in Walvis Bay and Russell Vinjevold (of Kunene Conservancy Safaris) will be collecting and transporting it to Wereldsend. Frank van der Schans and Marina van den Anker of the Netherlands sponsored a new BGAN IP modem. The unit was received yesterday and efforts are currently underway to install and activate the software.

3 Aug 2012. E=MC^2. The previous entry for 3 Aug 2012 was completed at 03h00 as the night appeared to be yet another failure. Everything changed when the Hoanib Pride suddenly returned to the Oryx carcass at 04h00. Xpl-59 (“E=MC^2”) and a young lioness (Xpl-78) was darted and fitted with VHF radio collars. The GPS collar of Xpl-47 “Bianca” appears to be working again.

3 Aug 2012. Elephants & Vehicles. Three groups of elephants moved through the area where the lions were resting during the day. The elephants were followed and observed by several tourist vehicles. A breeding herd of 14 elephants and four vehicles went to inspect the Oryx carcass. This was too much for the skittish Hoanib lions and they abandoned the carcass and moved away. A camera-trap was mounted near the carcass and it confirmed that only the young lioness (Xpl-57) returned to feed during the night.

2 Aug 2012. “Bianca” & Co. The radio signal of Xpl-57 was heard near the Ganamub Poort and the tracks of several lionesses (Xpl-47 “Bianca” & presumably Xpl-59) were located at a fresh Oryx carcass between Salvadora thickets. The whole night was spent waiting near the carcass, but the skittish lionesses kept a safe distance. A camera-trap was set-up in the Poort, but failed to capture images of a lioness that moved through the narrow gorge during the night.

1 Aug 2012. Xpl-69. The rest of the Floodplain Pride did not join Xpl-69 at the Oryx carcass, despite her efforts to call them. They were presumably also feeding on a carcass. Efforts were turned to locating “Rosh” (Xpl-73) and the Hoanib Pride.