News - 2012

May

May

31 May 2012. Eight Cubs. It was confirmed this morning that the two Huab lionesses (Xpl-56 & 57) have eight cubs between them. This is quite unusual because the average litter size for the desert population is 2.6 cubs.

30 May 2012. Huab Pride. The whole day was spent waiting for the Huab lions to emerge from the reeds. The objective was to observe and determine the exact number, age and sex of the cubs. The two lionesses were seen briefly at 16h00 and the male (Xpl-68) emerged after sundown and moved in a westerly direction along a mountain ridge. The cubs were not observed.

29 May 2012. Huab Lionesses. The Huab lions were observed briefly this morning as they emerged from the reeds onto the black basalt rocks. Three small cubs were spotted with the two lionesses (see photos below; move mouse over bottom right photo for an additional image). Analysis of the photographs, taken from a distance of 700 metres, revealed three additional cubs that were partly obscured by a bush (not visible in the photos below).

28 May 2012. Reeds. The Huab male (Xpl-68) joined-up with the two lionesses (Xpl-75 & 76) and they were located several kilometres west of Peter's Pool, resting inside the thick reed-bed (see red circle below). It is estimated that Xpl-68 travelled > 90 km in a 48-hour period. Many hours were spent watching the reed-bed, but the lions were not observed. The movement data for the past month were downloaded from the GPS collar fitted to Xpl-75.

27 May 2012. Ugab to Huab. The tracks of Xpl-68 (the Huab male) were followed all the way to the Ugab River, where Bernd Brell (Save the Rhino Trust) also observed his tracks near Brandberg West. Xpl-68 walked from the Ugab River to the Huab River in one night and then continued westwards along the Huab River. His tracks are currently being followed, but after 20 km there is still no sign of him or the lionesses. Over a period of approximately 36 hours, Xpl-68 has walked 74.3 kilometres.

26 May 2012. Huab Male. During the night the Huab male (Xpl-68) arrived in the Huab River and drank at the water pools east of Peter's Pool. He came from the South and his tracks are now being followed (re-tracing his movements) with the hope that this will lead to locating the lionesses and cubs.

25 May 2012. Huab Mist. The Huab River was reached late last night. The night was spent searching for the radio telemetry signals of the Huab Pride from elevated positions. At sunrise a thick bank of mist rolled in from the coast and by 09h00 the entire Huab Valley (extending beyond the main road from Khorixas) was covered. The mist cleared at midday.

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24 May 2012. Springbok River. Several herds of oryx, springbok and Mountain zebra were observed along the Springbok River. With the damaged rear suspension of the field vehicle, the drive over the rocky terrain towards the Huab River is time-consuming. No signs of the Agab, Springbok or Huab lions have yet been observed.

22/23 May 2012. Obab River. The lower sections of the Hoanib, Hunkap, Uniab and Obab Rivers were surveyed. A camera-trap in the Obab canyon recorded interesting images of a pair of klipspringers, a honey badger (ratel), a porcupine, a caracal and a male African wild cat.

19/21 May 2012. Fieldwork. Although funding for fuel and vehicle repairs have not yet be secured, available resources are being used to continue with basic monitoring. A Black Harrier was spotted at the mouth of the Hunkap River (see below).

17/18 May 2012. Mowe Bay hyaenas. Some of the electrical and suspension problems with the field vehicle have been repaired at Mowe Bay. Fundraising efforts for fuel and vehicle maintenance continue. A camera-trap was mounted near the seal colony and several images of brown hyaenas have been recorded.

16 May 2012. Cheetah. Repairs to the Land Cruiser and fundraising efforts for fuel and vehicle maintenance are ongoing at Mowe Bay. An adult cheetah was captured on two of the camera-trap on the Hoanib Floodplain. The cheetah moved from the dunes near the coast along the southern section of the Floodplain towards the East.

15 May 2012. Mowe Bay. Fieldwork was stopped in order to attend to the Land Cruiser and to secure funding for fuel and repairs. The heavy-duty OME rear suspension, fitted in May 2011, had been damaged, presumably during the work in the Huab mountains a few weeks ago. Four spring blades are broken on the left side (two behind and two in front of the axel) and two blades on the right side (broken on both sides of the axel).

Left rear suspension Right rear suspension

14 May 2012. Hyaena Feast. A camera-trap, placed at a giraffe carcass in the Hoanib River, recorded valuable images of brown hyaenas. Based on the marking patterns on their legs, and with comparison to the brown hyaena database (see bottom image) five different individuals visited the carcass during a single night. Several photographs showed two and three hyaenas. Although brown hyaenas breed communally, they are solitary forages and it is rare to see them in groups.

13 May 2012. Hoanib Male? The Floodplain lionesses were observed amongst the granite outcrops south of the Hoanib River. An effort was make to locate the adult male (Xpl-73 "Rosh"), but there were no signs that he visited the area or that he joined-up with the lionesses during the past few weeks. There is concern over his whereabouts and safety.

12 May 2012. Impact greater than expected... The group of Namibian registered vehicles that illegally entered the Skeleton Coast Park (see 9 May 2012) caused more damage to the area than was initially recorded. When the vehicle tracks did not return along the same route that they used to enter the restricted area, it was decided to investigate the incident further. The findings were shocking. The vehicles drove across the Hoanib Floodplain, disregarding the established tracks, and essentially "cut" a new road across the pink gravel plains. The vehicle tracks headed off in a south-easterly direction, through a beautiful and previously undisturbed area of the Skeleton Coast. It is estimated that the vehicles had to drive approximately 18 km before finding the next established track. The damage caused by these vehicles is extensive. A big effort was made today to sweep a section of the vehicle tracks, in a rather pathetic effort to rehabilitate the damage, but also to avoid other irresponsible tourist from following the tracks.

Sweeping the tracks left by the group of Namibian registered vehicles.

11 May 2012. Five Cubs. Xpl-69 was observed leading the five small cubs of the Floodplain Pride to a granite outcrop where they will remain for the next few days until the lionesses make another kill. The other lionesses (Xpl-10 & 55) were located several kilometres south of the Hoanib River. They were hunting for oryx amongst the granite hills. The five cubs are in good condition. (Photo bottom left by Bernd Sander)

10 May 2012. Oryx Hunt. The Hoanib Floodplain lionesses were located this morning after a lengthy search that started yesterday afternoon when their tracks were found near Amp's Poort. During the heat of the day (39.5° C) the lions rested amongst granite boulders in a narrow gorge south of the Hoanib River. At sundown they hunted a small herd of oryx, but they were not successful.

9 May 2012. Negative Tourism Impact. Tourism is an important industry in Namibia and it has been suggested (elsewhere and on this website) to be a fundamental part of wildlife conservation and rural development. However, uncontrolled tourism could potentially damage the industry and spoil the very product that it is based on. On 2 May 2012 a large group of Namibian registered vehicles illegally entered the Skeleton Coast Park via the Hoanib River. The vehicles did not follow the existing roads and left damaging tracks on the sensitive gravel plains south of the Hoanib Floodplain that will be visible for many years to come (see photos: top row). When caught driving illegally in restricted areas of the Skeleton Coast Park, transgressors often claim that they are lost. The camera-trap images (see photos: bottom middle & right) suggest that the vehicles were using GPS navigation systems. The incident has been reported to the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.

6-8 May 2012. Operational Constraints. The increasing price of petrol and the lack of sufficient funds for fuel and vehicle maintenance pose constraints on the Project. The recent work in the harsh terrain of the Huab River (24-30 Apr 12) has resulted in the structural failure of several spring-blades of the heavy-duty Old Man Emu rear suspension of the Land Cruiser. Paul van Biljon kindly donated N$ 5,000 towards fuel that can be collected at Grobler Motors in Henties Bay.

2-5 May 2012. Huanib Dunes & Mowe Bay. The Land Cruiser was driven slowly back to Mowe Bay to collect additional spare wheels. Efforts to locate the Floodplain Pride was restricted by a lack of fuel. Several meetings were held at Mowe Bay with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism on aspects of large carnivore conservation in Namibia. Desert Lion Conservation agreed to make data available and to participate in a national conservation strategy.

1 May 2012. Huab Mountains. Efforts to observe the cubs of the two Huab lionesses have failed. Their tracks were seen on several occasions, but the rough mountainous terrain made in difficult to spot them. The lionesses have moved deeper into the mountains in pursuit of the prey animals (mainly oryx and ostriches) that utilise the area. The Land Cruiser is running very low on fuel and two BFG Mud Terrain tires were damaged beyond repair by the rocky terrain.