News - 2012

Jul

July

31 Jul 2012. Oryx. At 02h00 the Floodplain lions moved quickly towards the southeast and their radio-telemetry signals were lost. Xpl-69 returned to the Floodplain after sunrise and killed an Oryx amongst the dune hummocks. She was observed feeding on the carcass at sunset.

29/30 Jul 2012. Floodplain. Xpl-10 and her pride were located in the middle of the Hoanib Floodplain. All five male cubs (the “5 Musketeers”) were present and they are in good condition.

27/8 Jul 2012. Hoanib River. The satellite collar of the Huab male (Xpl-68) has been sending regular location updates since midday on 26 Jul 2012. He is currently in the vicinity of Peter’s Pool. With the available moonlight leading up to the full moon on 2 Aug 2012, efforts will be focused in the Hoanib River. A camera-trap on the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain recorded valuable daytime images of brown hyaenas.

26 Jul 2012. Uniab Delta. The Ugab, Huab, Koigab, Uniab and Hoanib Rivers were surveyed along the coast for recent lion activities. Discussions were held with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism at Mowe Bay on coordinating monitoring of possible illegal activities in the Huab River. Emails can be received, but cannot be sent.

24/5 Jul 2012. Satellite-related problems. The Huab male (Xpl-68) moved eastwards during the night of 23 Jul 2012, but his satellite collar is not functioning properly and he could not be located. In addition, the problems experienced with the BGAN Internet connection continued. The past two days were spent trying to isolate and repair the problem. Kevin Milne, of Radio Electronic in Walvis Bay, is thank for developing a firewall to prevent unwanted data transfers during website updates using the BGAN modem.

23 Jul 2012. Huab Lion Eco-tourism. Between 11 and 22 July 2012 much progress was made with the development of lion eco-tourism in the Huab River. In addition to monitoring the Huab Pride and collecting ecological data, an effort was made to lead tourist vehicles to the lions and to provide advice that will lead to the tourists seeing the lions. This was done during 15 sessions (either early morning or late afternoon) on 11 days. A total of 24 vehicles and 136 tourists approached the lions (15 Wilderness Safaris vehicles & 9 private vehicles) at an average of 1.6 vehicles per session (max = 3). The success rate was surprisingly high as 73% (n = 99) of the tourists saw the lions during 80% of the sessions. Between 1 and 11 lions were observed at an average of 3.7 lions per session (n = 44 lions).

22 Jul 2012. Huab lions move west. During the early evening the Huab cubs approached a vehicle camping on the north side of the Huab River about 800 metres from the thicket where they’ve been staying for the past few days. The inquisitive cubs moved right up to the camp. There were a few nervous moments when Xpl-75 became agitated with the cubs being too close to the vehicle and people moving between the vehicle and the campfire. The incident resulted in the two lionesses and their respective cubs becoming separated, which provided an opportunity to deduce that Xpl-76 had a litter of three cubs (1 female & 2 males) and that the remaining five cubs belong to Xpl-75. The two lionesses and their cubs rejoined again at 01h30 and continued moving in a westerly direction. The lionesses stashed their cubs in a large thicket during the early morning and by sunrise they were hunting amongst the basalt ridges south of the Huab. They returned to the Huab River by mid morning. (Move mouse over lower right photo).

21 Jul 2012. Thickets. For the past two days the Huab Pride have remained inside a large patch of thick Salsola and Salvadora bushes. For most of this time, bar a few glimpses, the lions were not visible. During both nights the two lionesses moved along the Huab River and into the surrounding hills, presumably hunting for prey, only to return to the cubs during the day. The male (Xpl-68) left the group and moved off in a southwesterly direction.

20 Jul 2012. Huab Monitoring. The viewing of the Huab Pride by tourists is beginning to increase. A monitoring system was designed in an attempt to measure the impact of the tourism activities on the lions as well as the quality of the sightings. During the past 24 hours the lions remained inside a Salvadora thicket, but at sunrise the two lionesses and some of the cubs were observed on a high basalt ridge.

19 Jul 2012. Huab Cubs. It was confirmed this morning that all eight cubs of the Huab Pride are still alive. Observations during the past few days, supplemented by an analysis of the photographs collected, confirmed that there are 4 female and 3 male cubs. There is still some uncertainty about the sex of the 8th cub, but it is suspected to be female.

18 Jul 2012. Huab Lion Tourism-2. The past 24 hours were spent following and observing the Huab Pride as they moved along the Huab River towards De Riet. During the heat of the day (whilst the lions were resting in a Salvadora thicket) a structure was designed for the implementation of a sustainable lion eco-tourism product in the Huab River.

17 Jul 2012. Huab Lion Tourism. The satellite collar of Xpl-68 is not yet fully functional. Uploading the final schedule (four locations per night) to the collar appears to be difficult and it has not yet registered. The Huab Pride (1 male, 2 females & 8 cubs) was located in the Huab River at the water pools south of Krone. The process of developing an eco-tourism product was initiated and two tourist vehicles approached the lions at sunset. The outcome was not ideal and a lot more work will be required to improve the quality and reliability of observing the lions.

16 Jul 2012. Damaraland Camp. Most of the day was spent at Damaraland Camp making use of an Internet connection to evaluate the satellite download data from the satellite collar of Xpl-68 and to upload the final schedule with help from African Wildlife Tracking. The position of Xpl-68 at 08h07 this morning was received and plotted on Google Earth (see below). Discussions were held with Wilderness Safaris on the future monitoring of the lions and developing of an eco-tourism product where direct benefits will go to the Torra Conservancy.

15 Jul 2012. Cold Night. The Huab male (Xpl-68) recover from the anaesthetics and by 23h00 he was observed feeding on an Oryx carcass that he killed the previous night. Strong westerly winds persisted throughout the night and temperatures dropped to below 4° Celsius, which is unusual for this part of the Namib. Sunrise was met with unusually hazy conditions that permitted looking directly at the sun and photographing a “sunspot” using a telephoto lens. To match the chain of unusual events, a spotted eagle owl was observed in broad daylight along the banks of the Huab River.

14 Jul 2012. First Satellite Collar. Early this morning the Huab male (Xpl-68) was located east of Peter’s Pool. After observing him for most of the day, he was immobilised at dusk and the first satellite collar from African Wildlife Tracking was fitted. Lez Weintrobe (photo: bottom middle) sponsored the satellite collar. The staff from Damaraland Camp (Wilderness Safaris) have been monitoring the lion movements in the Huab River, as well as providing support to the Lion Project, and it was fitting that many of the senior staff members could attend the darting of Xpl-68 this evening (photo: bottom right).

13 Jul 2012. BGAN Revival? The past 24 hours were spent sat in the Land Cruiser close to the Huab Pride. The time was used to take the faulty HNS 9201 satellite terminal apart in an attempt to repair it. Two loose connections were found and soldered. It is unclear if the error has been repaired, but after several attempts it was possible to connect to the Internet and update the website.

Shortly after sunset the Huab lionesses and cubs approached the Land Cruiser. Four cubs (three females and one male) moved to within one metre of the vehicle and ID photos were taken of them (see below). The lions stayed around the Land Cruiser for several hours and were observed moving to the west at 22h30.

12 Jul 2012. Huab Pride. During the night the radio telemetry signals of the two Huab lionesses were heard in the direction of Mikberg. At sunrise the two females and their cubs were located on the south bank of the Huab River, approximately 6 km east of Peter’s Pool.

11 Jul 2012. BGAN Failure. Following the marked increase in the monthly fees to update this website (see 8 Jul 2012), the Hughes (HNS 9201) broadband satellite terminal, used for the daily website updates, has also failed. Problems were first experienced with the unit more than a year ago and, although the necessary repairs were made in the field at the time, the unit has now stopped functioning altogether. The research and monitoring of the Desert Lion Project will continue, but website updates from the field will not be possible until funds for a replacement unit and the associated running costs have been secured.

10 Jul 2012. Obab Pride. En route to the Huab & Ugab Rivers, a sub-group of the Obab Pride was located south of the Uniab River. Following the initial tests of the RFID Tags (donated by Eagle Eye, Namibia) around Mowe Bay and the training received from Gerrit De Waal & Paul van Biljon, a RFID Tag was fixed inside a conventional VHF radio collar and the RFID antenna was mounted on the Land Cruiser (see photos: bottom row). During the next week, detailed tests will be conducted on the range and efficiency of the RFID Tag technology. Efforts are also underway to locate the Huab Pride and the Dorob male (Xpl-77 “Victor”) in the Ugab River.

8 Jul 2012. NOTIFICATION. The Desert Lion Project regrets to announce that website updates will be reduced to every second day and that fewer photographs and animations will be posted. Funding constraints continue to hamper the Project. The main running-cost expenses (petrol, vehicle maintenance & daily website updates) are affected most by the shortage of operational funds. In order to keep the Project afloat until long-term funding can be secured, it has become necessary to cut costs wherever possible. The website updates are done using the BGAN system via the Inmarsat satellites and it is hugely expensive. For the past 3 years the satellite Internet costs that a generous donor has covered amounted to approximately N$3,000/month. But, because of an increase in the costs it is necessary to cut back on email communications and website updates.

6 Jul 2012. RFID Tags. Eagle Eye Namibia donated five RFID Tag units, a handheld reader and two antennae to the Desert Lion Project. The RFID Tags could potentially replace the use of conventional VHF radio collars and the recent advances of this technology make it an attractive and significantly cheaper alternative. Tests were conducted today in the Mowe Bay and Hoanib Floodplain area and the results were impressive – one RFID tag was picked-up from a distance of 32 km. Paul van Biljon, Gerrit De Waal and Peter Sander are thanked for their efforts.

5 Jul 2012. Terrace Bay. The Land Cruiser ran out of fuel after reaching the main coastal track to Mowe Bay. The Chief Warden (Gerson Somaeb) at Mowe Bay came to the rescue and supplied 40 litres of petrol in order to reach Terrace Bay.

4 Jul 2012. Camera-traps. With very little fuel left in the tanks, the Land Cruiser was driven slowly through the Floodplain and the dunes towards Terrace Bay. Photographs of brown hyaenas and several smaller carnivores, such as a slender mongoose (photo on far right) were downloaded from the network of camera-traps.

3 Jul 2012. Out of Fuel. The efforts invested to search for the various Hoanib lions during the past week, which fortunately resulted in finding Xpl-73 “Rosh” and darting the missing lioness (Xpl-57), have drained the fuel supplies of the Land Cruiser. A young female caracal was observed at sunrise and a group of suricates (meerkat) have moved into burrows on the southern edge of the Floodplain.

2 Jul 2012. Oryx Carcass. After confirming that Xpl-57 and Xpl-73 “Rosh” were fine after the darting of Xpl-57, they were left in peace. The Floodplain lionesses with their five cubs were located north of the Hoanib Floodplain. They were feeding on an Oryx carcass.

1 Jul 2012. Movements of Xpl-73. The Hoanib lioness (Xpl-57) recovered from the immobilisation without incident and her new GPS collar is working well. The movement data for the past three months were downloaded from the GPS collar of “Rosh” (Xpl-73). Analysis of the data revealed that he spent most of the time in the southwest corner of the Okongwe area and between Amp’s Poort & the Mudorib River, but he also ventured to Mudorib Spring & the Obias River (see map). During this period he moved a total distance of 1063 km, at an average of 8.6 km per day (0.1 – 43 km). The frequency histogram shows that on most days (67%) he moved less than 9 km, but that he often moved more than 15 km on those days that he travelled longer distances.