News - 2012

Jun

June

30 Jun 2012. "Rosh" & Xpl-57. After he disappeared for nearly three months, the radio signal of Xpl-73 “Rosh” was picked-up late last night west of the Sawarugab River. The lion was moving and the signal was soon lost in the mountainous terrain. This morning his tracks were followed for 7.5 km. He was in the company of a female and there were signs that they have been mating. At 23h46 this evening the lioness was darted. To great surprise she is Xpl-57 from the Hoanib Pride and the daughter of Xpl-47 “Bianca”. Xpl-57 was last seen in Sep 2010, when her sister (Xpl-58) was shot near Sesfontein, and she was presumed dead. The radio collar that was fitted to her in Aug 2010 had disintegrated (see photo), explaining why she could not be located. She was given a refurbished GPS radio collar, previously worn by her mother (Xpl-47).

29 Jun 2012. Okongwe. Large sections of the Hoaruseb, Gamatum and Sawarugab Rivers and the Okongwe Mountains were scanned for signs of the Hoanib & Okongwe lions. The camera-trap at Okongwe had been dislodged from its mounting by a rock hyrax on 10 April 2012. Judging by the amount of animal tracks near the camera, a lot of potentially valuable data were lost by this event. The camera was re-mounted more securely using a metal stake as an anchor. Notwithstanding, the camera recorded photographs of a male leopard, a spotted hyaena and several images of the secretive Jameson’s rock rabbit.

28 Jun 2012. Vehicle Tracks. A large area has been covered in search of Xpl-73 “Rosh”, the Hoanib Pride and the 70’s lionesses, but they have not yet been located. It is encouraging that there has not been any illegal traffic onto the Hoanib Floodplain in the Skeleton Coast Park since 5 Jun 2012 (see News - 16 Jun 2012). Attempts were made to re-habilitate some of the off-road vehicle tracks that were made during the past year.

27 Jun 2012. Giraffe Carcass. A camera-trap was mounted at a giraffe carcass near Amp’s Poort in the Hoanib River on 11 May 2012. To date, the camera has recorded 2179 valuable photographs. The majority of the images are of brown hyaenas (n = 1702), black-backed jackals (n = 323) and spotted hyaenas (n = 134). The records of spotted hyaenas are interesting because th e species is not known to frequent the Hoanib River this far west.

26 Jun 2012. Extended Search. For the past 24 hours attention has been focussed on locating the Hoanib male (Xpl-73 “Rosh”), the Hoanib females (Xpl-47 “Bianca”), the 70’s lionesses and the Floodplain Pride. The remains of an Oryx carcass, killed yesterday morning by the Floodplain Pride, was found near a spectacular mushroom-shaped rock (see photo below). A large area was covered, but no fresh tracks or radio signals were found.

25 Jun 2012. Camera Trap. The Floodplain Pride have remained in an inaccessible area, but they moved passed a camera-trap on the southern edge of the Floodplain at 05h16 on 24 Jun 2012.

24 Jun 2012. Dune Habitat. The lions moved into a section of the dune-belt between the coast and the Hoanib Floodplain that is not accessible by vehicle and observations had to be stopped. A large pod of whales were spotted several kilometres offshore. The species of whale could not be identified, but the photos will be sent to a research project based at Cape Town University.

23 Jun 2012. Dune Crossing. The Floodplain Pride suddenly disappeared from the coastal habitat near the mouth of the Hoanib River. After a substantial effort they were found crossing the dune-belt towards the Hoanib Floodplain.

22 Jun 2012. Male Cubs. The fact that the five Floodplain cubs are all males is unusual since the average sex ratio at birth is even. It is also remarkable given the shortage of adult male lions in the Desert population. Notwithstanding, raising five male cubs in the harsh desert environment of the Hoanib Floodplain will be difficult and it will place a serious strain on the lionesses. A substantial effort will be made to monitor and document the fate of all five male cubs for the duration of their lives. Detail photographs have been taken of the vibrissae (whisker) spot patters of each of the cubs and they have each been assigned an ID code.

ID = 69Y12-1 "Ben" ID = 69Y12-2 ID = 55Y12-1 ID = 10Y12-1 ID = 10Y12-2

21 Jun 2012. Whales & Lions. Within visual distance of each other a pod of Humpback whales were observed as well as the Floodplain lions feeding on the Oryx carcass (see below). The photographs of the whales and the lions were taken less than two hours apart.

21 Jun 2012. Oryx Kill. The Floodplain lionesses have been very successful hunting in the coastal habitat and killed two adult Oryx in two days. The females and cubs are well fed and they are in good condition.

20 Jun 2012. Coastal Zone. Whilst resting-up in the broken terrain of the coastal zone, the three Floodplain lionesses were constantly scanning the area for prey. During the morning they spotted a small herd of Oryx several kilometres to the south and immediately started hunting them.

19 Jun 2012. Five Male Cubs. Much to the dismay of the Floodplain lionesses, the cubs approached the Land Cruiser and provided a perfect opportunity to confirm that all five are males and to collect ID photos. The lionesses tried to call them back, but the cubs were too inquisitive and paid little attention to the calls.

18 Jun 2012. Oasis Spring. During the night the Floodplain Pride visited Oasis spring and then moved towards the coast. The three lionesses and all five cubs spent most of the day resting amongst the dune hummocks 2.7 km from the beach.

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17 Jun 2012. Hoanib Mouth. Despite a considerable effort with limited fuel resources, the Hoanib male (“Rosh”, Xpl-73) and the Hoanib Pride (“Bianca", Xpl-47) could not be located. The tracks of three lionesses and several cubs (the Floodplain Pride) were picked-up 15 km south of Amp’s Poort. The tracks were followed in a westerly direction, through the dune-belt, and the Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-10, 55 & 69) were located at sunset. They were approximately 4 km from the coast near the mouth of the Hoanib River.

16 Jun 2012. Vehicles. The network of camera-traps around the Hoanib River captured several more vehicles illegally entering the Skeleton Coast Park during the past few weeks. Some of these vehicles also drove across the pristine gravel plains north of the Hoanib River. The search for the Hoanib lions, especially “Rosh” (Xpl-73) and “Bianca” (Xpl-47), is continuing.

15 Jun 2012. Searching. None of the radio-collared lions of the Floodplain, Hoanib, or Okongwe Prides could be located. The strong east-wind conditions that prevailed during the past week have obliterated most of the animal tracks, leaving no signs of recent movements. An extensive search is currently underway to locate the lions.

14 Jun 2012. Floodplain Cubs. During the past month the network of camera-traps on the Hoanib Floodplain captured many interesting images. Most significant were the Floodplain lionesses and their cubs that were photographed on 21 May 2012.

13 Jun 2012. Moving North. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism at Ugab Gate, Swakopmund and Mowe Bay were informed of the recent movements of the new male lion in the Ugab River (Xpl-77). A brief visit was made to Mowe Bay where a structure was built to help rehabilitate the vehicle tracks made by illegal traffic in the Skeleton Coast Park.

12 Jun 2012. Black Rocks. Xpl-77 was kept under observation for another day. It was impressive to notice the ease and agility with which he moves over the rugged mountains along the banks of the Ugab River. His spoor from a few days ago was also followed as he moved at least 15 km southwest of the Ugab and into the Dorob National Park.

11 Jun 2012. Xpl-77. The lion recovered well from the anaesthetics. He was observed moving through the mountainous terrain whilst approaching the remains of his zebra kill.

10 Jun 2012. Long Night. The zebra carcass was dragged from the thick reeds into a clearing and was tied to a rock. A long and bitterly cold night was spent waiting at the carcass. The lion approached the carcass at 04h00. He was darted just before the break of dawn. Xpl-77 was fitted with a new RFID tag collar from African Wildlife Tracking. The Project would like to thank Karen Lo, Roland Boutin, Richard Roberts & Ben Simpson for the helicopter flight, which led to the capture & radio collaring of an important lion in the Ugab River.

9 Jun 2012. Ugab Lion. Driving to the location where the male lion was observed from the helicopter yesterday afternoon has been difficult due to the rocky terrain along the banks and the muddy substrate inside the Ugab River. It required most of today to get the Land Cruiser close to the carcass to observe the lion.

8 Jun 2012. Helicopter. The spoor of a male lion was picked-up between the Omaruru River and Brandberg. The tracks were followed going into the Ugab River and moving westwards past the SRT Camp at Brandberg West. A group of conservationists/tourists visiting the region was met at the Ugab Camp. They kindly offered the use of their helicopter to try and locate the lion. Through a stroke of good luck the male lion was spotted on a fresh zebra carcass in the Ugab River approximately 16 km west of the camp. Efforts are now underway to reach the location by vehicle and to observe the lion.

7 Jun 2012. Spitzkoppe. A large part of the Omaruru River and the area between the river and Spitzkoppe were searched for signs of the lion, and many local settlements were visited to enquire about the lion. There were no tangible signs or reports of the lion. The search has been expanded further north to the Messum and Ugab Rivers.

6 Jun 2012. Omaruru River - 2. Fresh signs or tracks of the lion in the Omaruru River have not yet been found. Many of the local villages in the Tsiseb Conservancy, where the lion was observed, were visited to enquire about livestock losses and the possible whereabouts of the lions. The people were eager to help and provided lots of information. The search has been expanded far south of the Omaruru River towards the Spitzkoppe.

5 Jun 2012. Omaruru River. Reports were received from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism that a male lion has been observed in the Omaruru River. This observation coincides with other reports that a lion was spotted at Mile 72. On several occasions during the past eight years, similar reports have been investigated, but they were always false alarms: i.e. the spoor or observed animal inevitably turned out to be a brown hyaena. However, this reports appears to be authentic and an effort is currently underway to locate the lion.

4 Jun 2012. Cruiser Repairs. Swakopmund was reached at 07h30 this morning and Alfons Motors started working on the vehicle immediately. The Old Man Emu suspension was still under guarantee and the replacement units were ready to be fitted. Everything had been pre-arranged by the agents and several other parties. The Project would like to acknowledge the following people for facilitating the process: Adolf Huester, Cris Ingram (R & D Off Road), Manfred Laborn (CYMOT), Peter Sander & Alfons Motors. Wayne Kriel of Alfons Motors (photo far left — move mouse over photo for additional image) is thanked for attending to the Land Cruiser with care & efficiency. He also established that a noise heard from the front axel, during the last few kilometres before reaching Swakopmund, was due to failing bearings on the right-front wheel. The bearings were replaced.

2/3 Jun 2012. Slow Progress. Although valuable data on the Huab Pride were collected during the past few days, the rough terrain resulted in three additional broken springs on the rear suspension of the Land Cruiser. Driving the crippled field vehicle out if the Huab Mountains and through all the gullies and riverbeds of the Ugab and Messum Rivers towards Swakopmund is difficult and time consuming. An immature Verreaux's (Black) Eagle was observed near Peter's Pool when an Augur Buzzard harassed it, and an African Hawk Eagle came overhead for a close-up inspection.

1 Jun 2012. Cruiser Repairs. The Huab lionesses and their cubs moved into the mountains to the south-west of Peter's Pool and observations could not be continued. The Land Cruiser will be driven to Swakopmund during the next two days for repairs to the rear suspension.