News - 2014


April

Lion Movements - go to Current Locations. OR “Terrace Male” / Agab Pride / Huab Pride / Hunkap Pride / Xpl-73 / Okongwe Pride

30 Apr 2014. Hunkap. Two camera-traps at Hunkap spring recorded 1200 images during the past 7 weeks. The male lion, Xpl-81 “Kebbel”, was photographed on 2 Apr 2014 (photo: top middle) and there were several photographs of cheetahs, brown hyaenas and spotted hyaenas.

29 Apr 2014. Upper Obab. En route to the most recent position of Xpl-73 “Rosh”, the tracks of 5 lions (2 females and 3 large cubs) were followed from a western tributary of the Barab River into the upper Obab River.

28 Apr 2014. Upper Barab. The northern section of the Barab River was searched for missing lions from several local prides. Despite large numbers of wildlife, especially Hartmann’s zebras, no signs of recent lion movements could be found. There is concern over the wellbeing of Xpl-73 “Rosh” and it will be investigated.

27 Apr 2014. Lower Barab Pride. More detailed observations confirmed the age & sex structure of the nine small cubs of Xpl-49 “Nina” and the Lower Barab lionesses. The two pride males (Xpl-79 “Geronimo” & Xpl-80) could not yet be located, but the build-up of thunderclouds and associated static electricity complicated the radio tracking efforts.

26 Apr 2014. Nine Cubs. Xpl-49 “Nina” and her newly formed “Lower Barab Pride” (see News 19 Feb 2014) were located at the Lower Barab spring. A total of nine cubs were now counted and confirmed (photo: bottom right), improving the previous estimate of six cubs (19 Feb 2014). The cubs consist of two age groups (4 of 6-7 months & 5 of 4-5 months) and there are five males and four females. There was a big build-up of thunderclouds in the afternoon.

25 Apr 2014. Kai-Ais. A large section of the home range of the Obab Pride was searched and there were no signs of the lions. This was not surprising because the area is very dry and there were hardly any prey animals. Close to sunset the Obab Male (Xpl-74) was located east of Kai-Ais spring (photos below).

24 Apr 2014. Kharugaiseb. Large concentrations of springboks were found on the basalt plains south of the Kharugaiseb River.  The satellite collar of the Obab Pride has failed and efforts are underway to locate them to replace the collar.

23 Apr 2014. Springbok. An adult male springbok with a badly injured leg was found at Mowe Bay. Since it appeared to be a human induced injury the springbok was immobilised and the wound was treated.

22 Apr 2014. "Joey". The brown hyaena (Xhb-16 “Joey”), darted on 17 Apr 2014, was identified as the dominant breeding female of the Amp’s Poort clan. She has been monitored for over three years and her movements were captured on various camera-traps. Xhb-16 is lactating and is believed to have small cubs.

21 Apr 2014. Elephants. The Hoanib Floodplain is still inaccessible due to the recent flooding of the Hoanib River. An unusually high number of elephants were observed on the Floodplain. It would appear that most of the Hoanib elephants as well as those from the Hoaruseb River are currently utilising the Floodplain.

20 Apr 2014. The Queen. With much relief it was confirmed that Xpl-10 is still alive after she disappeared on 5 Apr 2014 (see 17 Apr below). Two days ago a camera-trap on the Hoanib Floodplain captured images of Xpl-10 (photos below).

19 Apr 2014. Amp's Poort. The satellite collar of the Floodplain lioness failed on 10 April 2014. Xpl-55 was immobilised and a new satellite collar was fitted. During the past few days there has been extensive build-up of clouds from midday to sunset, but there has not yet been any rain showers or flooding of the Hoanib River (see time-lapse video below).

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18 Apr 2014. Hoanib Carnivores. The natural history and baseline ecology of the small, medium and large carnivores of the lower Hoanib River will be the focus of a collaborative study with Wilderness Safaris. The study will be lead by Emsie Verwey and the tourism sector will be invited to participate. The main goals of the study are: a) to collect baseline data on the distribution, density and behaviour of the various carnivore species, and b) to improve the tourism potential of the carnivore species. One brown hyaena and two Cape foxes have thus far been marked. The Floodplain pride moved to Amp’s Poort (photo: bottom) and there is still no sign of Xpl-10.

17 Apr 2014. Giraffe Carcass. The “Five Musketeers” and two lionesses of the Floodplain Pride quickly consumed the entire giraffe carcass. Their last recorded kill was more than a week ago and the sub-adult male (“Tullamore” Xpl-93) that got separated from the group had not eaten for 2 weeks. With their full bellies all the lions took to the shade and there was little sign of the struggles and food shortages they had to endure during the past 1 – 2 weeks. There is concern over the whereabouts and wellbeing of the Queen (Xpl-10). She was last observed on 5 Apr 2014 (see below) when she returned to find the missing male (Xpl-93). Efforts are underway to locate Xpl-10.

As part of a collaborative project with Emsie Verwey of Wilderness Safaris on the ecology of carnivores in the lower Hoanib River, a brown hyaena was immobilised at 03h30 this morning. More details will follow in tomorrows News update.

16 Apr 2014. Floodplain Pride. The Floodplain Pride killed a young giraffe on the south bank of the Hoanib River. All five “Musketeers” were present and they are in good condition.

15 Apr 2014. Desperate Tactics. The use of fireworks and flares to disturb and chase the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) away from the problem area north of Purros was only partially successful. It was the use of heavy rock music, especially tracks with a strong high-pitched voice component (such as songs by AC/DC, Deep Purple & Led Zeppelin) played at full volume (±4,500 Watt peak power) through the sound system that caused the lion to vacate the area (see attached Mp3 example). Even though care was taken to “hide” the research vehicle behind thick vegetation when the music was played, there is little doubt that the “Terrace Male” will associate the disturbance with the research vehicle. This will limit future opportunities of observing and following the lion. These desperate measures are unfortunately required because if the “Terrace Male” remains in the area he will be shot or poisoned.

Spectacular rainclouds during the late afternoon Sound playbacks Movements of Xpl-68

14 Apr 2014. Saving "Terrace". The wanderings of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) across the harshest sections of the northern Namib Desert during the past 2.6 years have been nothing short of remarkable (see Xpl-68 Summary). But, it was his voyage into Angola, where he swam across the Kunene River, that captured the imagination of the public and he has become somewhat of an icon, which has arguably benefitted wildlife conservation and tourism in Namibia. Unfortunately, his recent visits to Purros have taken him into harms way. Management efforts to deter him from the area have failed when he returned to the settlement for the third time two nights ago. With the invaluable support of Wilderness Safaris (Emsie, Gerhard, Bertus & Jannes), the Purros Lion Rangers (Collin, Bertus & Kooti), Purros Conservancy (Hiskia) and Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (Pollen & Pieter) a desperate effort was made today to scare Xpl-68 away from the Purros Settlement using fireworks and flares (see photos below by E Verwey). Due to the extensive rains most of the wildlife have vacated the areas that Xpl-68 utilised during the past 2 years and he has presumably been attracted to Purros because of the donkeys that occupy the river habitat. Hopes are that the disturbance will cause him to leave.

13 Apr 2014. Reunion. In spite of his injuries Xpl-93 “Tullamore” walked approximately 30 km and reconnected with his brothers, the “Musketeers”, after being separated for 12 days. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is still close to Purros and the situation is becoming problematic.

12 Apr 2014. Elephants vs. "Musketeers". The rest of the “Five Musketeers” were located on the north bank of the Hoanib Floodplain. The four sub-adult males were together, but there was no sign of the three lionesses. The males had not eaten for many days and they were resting near a pool of water from the recent floods. They were approached by two herds of elephants and on both occasions the elephants chased the lions out of the Hoanib River (photos: below). “Tullamore” (Xpl-93), the fifth “Musketeer”, was also observed in the Tsuxib River – 22 km to the northeast of his brothers. The injuries he sustained from the conflict with the “Terrace Male” and perhaps also the Hunkap Male (Xpl-87) has become worse and he is limping. Nonetheless he moved more that 15 km during the night to Amp’s Poort. Sadly, the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved back to the problem area north of Purros. The translocation did not work because he had already identified with the constant availability of easy prey (donkeys) in that part of the Hoaruseb River.

11 Apr 2014. Animation. “Tullamore” (Xpl-93), one of the “Five Musketeers”, has still not joined up with his brothers and the rest of the Floodplain Pride. As more information became available it appears that the developments surrounding his split from the Pride was more complex than initially thought. It was necessary to develop an animation that combined the movements of all the satellite-collared lions on the same timeline in order to gain a better understanding of the events (see below). The timeline starts at 12h00 on 1 Apr 2014 (indicated as: 01 pm) and every subsequent day is presented as AM (00h00 – 12h00) and PM (12h00 – 00h00) until 12h00 on 6 Apr 2014. Click the “Play” button (bottom left) to view the synchronized movements of the “Terrace Male”, the Floodplain lionesses, the rest of the “Musketeers”, “Tullamore” (Xpl-93) & the Hunkap Male (Xpl-87). Access to the Hoanib River is still restricted by the floods.

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10 Apr 2014. Flooding Rivers. The Hoaruseb River was flowing, but water levels dropped sufficiently to cross the river at Leyland’s Drift. When the Hoanib River was reached at 18h00 it was running strongly and the water level was rising (photos: below). It was however possible to cross the river west of Amp’s Poort. Access to the surrounding areas will be limited for the next few days.

9 Apr 2014. Lower Hoaruseb River. The Hoaruseb River came down in flood again during the night and it was not possible to cross the river. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was monitored for another 16 hours and it is pleasing to know that he has recovered fully from the long anaesthetic and the relocation from Purros. The sub-adult male “Tullamore” (Xpl-93) has still not rejoined the rest of the Floodplain Pride. This rather surprising development will be investigated as soon as the flooding rivers can be crossed.

8 Apr 2014. "Terrace Male" Recovered. Transporting the immobilized “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) in the new Land Cruiser was a great success. The specially designed vehicle with all its extra equipment and the OME suspension made for a smooth and effective operation. The lion was put on a Ringer-lactate drip and his heart rate, respiration and general status were monitored and recorded every 30 minutes. A heart rate monitor, used mainly by athletes, was fitted to the lion and this helped to monitor his status whilst driving through the rough terrain. The Hoaruseb River was reached at daybreak and Xpl-68 was offloaded next to a thick acacia bush and his recovery was monitored. By 07h10 he started walking and at sundown he was resting between granite boulders 1.2 km from the ocean.

Loading and monitoring the vital statistics of the “Terrace Male” during the relocation.
A heart rate monitor was fitted and provided constant information whilst driving. The tip of Xpl-68’s tail - see 20 Feb 2014

7 Apr 2014. Translocation. More discussions were held with the Purros community about the fate of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the potential tourism benefits. The community requested that the lion must be removed from the area. The Desert Lion Project agreed with the request because it was suggested that the lion would be shot. The “Terrace Male” was immobilized at 01:20 this morning. With the assistance of Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (Pieter de Wet) and IRDNC (Russel & Tina Vinjevold) the lion was loaded in the Desert Lion Land Cruiser and relocated to the mouth of the Hoaruseb River. Flooding of the Hoaruseb River hampered the operation and an alternative route had to be used. After driving for 8 hours and 96 km through difficult terrain, the “Terrace Male” was released safely at the mouth of the Hoaruseb River.

6 Apr 2014. "Terrace Male". The sub-adult male ”Tullamore” (Xpl-93) and Xpl-10 did not manage to reconnect with the rest of the Floodplain Pride. Preliminary data indicate that the Hunkap males (Xpl-81 “Kebbel” & Xpl-87) approached the remaining Floodplain Pride from the north, which caused them to scatter and retreat back over Sima Hill towards the Hoanib Floodplain. Efforts to locate Xpl-10 & 93, reconstruct the events of last night and present the information on this website was cut short with the development of a crisis-situation with the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) at Purros. Information was received that there was much unhappiness amongst the community about the lion and that there was a risk that the lion might be shot. After a 7–hour drive, crossing two flooding rivers (photo: middle right), Xpl-68 was located 8.7 km north of Purros. After a discussion with members of the Purros Conservancy and Colin Kasupi (Lion Ranger) it was agreed to give Xpl-68 one more night to vacate the area on his on accord. A total of 8 tourist vehicles staying at the Purros Campsite were observed approaching and viewing the “Terrace Male” (photo: bottom right).

5 Apr 2014. Good Mother. Two days after the incident with the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68), the Floodplain Pride vacated the area and moved towards the Okongwe waterhole. But the 16-year old lioness (Xpl-10) returned for a second time to search for the young male (Xpl-93 “Tullamore”) that was injured during the conflict with Xpl-68. She found the young male and they were resting amongst the granite rocks during the day. Xpl-10 is one of the oldest lionesses with the highest reproductive success in the Desert lion population. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved past Purros and conflict with the local communities is inevitable. His movements are being monitored closely.

4 Apr 2014. "Tullamore". During the night the Floodplain Pride, except one of the “Five Musketeers”, regrouped and by morning they were in the mountains 8 km east of the Tsuxib River. Xpl-93 “Tullamore” did not move at all during the night and he was located on a granite outcrop 6 km east of the rest of the pride (photos: top row). His left back leg is injured with what appears to be bite marks, presumably inflicted by the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68), and he spent the day resting in the shade of the granite boulders. During the afternoon the lioness Xpl-10 returned to the area. She roared often and was presumably searching for the missing male (photos: bottom row). Xpl-93 moved westwards instead and Xpl-10 returned to the rest of the pride. By 04h00 this morning they were 18 km apart.

3 Apr 2014. Drama at Sima Hill. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) followed the Floodplain lionesses past Sima Hill and he caught up with them near the Tsuxib River at 02:00 – 03:00 this morning. Based on preliminary satellite collar data and spoor reconstructions, there was a confrontation that caused the “Five Musketeers” to split-up and become separated from the lionesses. At sunset the “Terrace Male” was observed moving southwards along the Tsuxib River (photos: bottom row). He was roaring and searching for the lionesses. By that time all the Floodplain lions had moved into the hills to the east of the Tsuxib River and at 22h00 the signals from their respective radio collars suggested that they have joined-up. It is interesting to note that Xpl-81 “Kebbel”, who have spent the past month south of Hunkap spring, suddenly moved >47 km last night, directly towards the location where the conflict between Xpl-68 “Terrace Male” and the Floodplain Pride occurred. He may have responded to the associated roaring – a distance of 65 km (direct line).

The view from the Hoanib Floodplain towards Sima Hill. Undulating terrain between Sima Hill and the Tsuxib River

2 Apr 2014. Xpl-68 searching for females. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was located on the north bank of the Hoanib Floodplain during the morning and he was heading towards the Floodplain lionesses. His behavior suggested that he was aware of their presence in the area. However, the Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” continued moving during the day and at sunset they crossed the water-divide south of Sima Hill towards the Tsuxib River.

1 Apr 2014. "Musketeers". The Floodplain Pride (3 lionesses & 5 sub-adult males) was located north of the Hoanib Floodplain. The lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” are in average condition and they have not eaten recently. Due to the recent rainfall in the surrounding areas, most of the ungulates that the lions normally prey on have moved to greener pastures.