News - 2014


December

31 Dec 2014. Events of 2014. The year was dominated by a number of key events that had an impact on the lion population. The killing of Xpl-73 “Rosh” and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was a setback not only to the lions, but also to the conservation and tourism efforts in the region. The natural death of the “Queen” Xpl-10 left a noticeable vacancy. However, the “Five Musketeers” and the three young lionesses of the Obab Pride bring new hope for 2015.

30 Dec 2014. Uniab Lions. Monitoring of the Obab lionesses in the dunes of the lower Uniab River was complicated by strong winds and unusual weather conditions (see photo below). The Floodplain Pride reached the Okongwe River and they remained in the vicinity of the Okongwe waterhole during the day.

29 Dec 2014. Uniab Dunes. The Obab females hunted for Oryx in the dunes a few kilometres east of the Uniab Delta. Based on their movements and the number of Pied crows that were present it is suspected that the lionesses were successful during the night. Due to the high dunes, the lions could unfortunately not be reached by vehicle.

28 Dec 2014. "Lovechild". Xpl-45 “Lovechild” and her three daughters were observed moving amongst in the dunes near the Uniab Delta. They have come close to finding the springs and the abundant prey (see 27 Dec 2014). The “Five Musketeers” were reunited with the lionesses and they have moved towards Okongwe.

27 Dec 2014. Obab Lions. After the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was shot, lions have not yet returned to the Uniab Delta. Some of the Obab lionesses have been frequenting the lower Uniab River and they may soon discover the rich food source of Oryx that utilise the springs scattered along the Delta. The lower Uniab area was searched for lion tracks and a sub-group of the Obab Pride was located in the dunes south of the Uniab River (photo: bottom right).

26 Dec 2014. Oryx Kill. The two Floodplain lionesses separated from the “Five Musketeers” and moved 20 km to the north where they killed an adult male Oryx. The “Five Musketeers” remained in the Hoanib River where large numbers of wildlife return daily to feed on the green vegetation.

25 Dec 2014. Tourism Value. Large numbers of tourists have enjoyed spectacular sightings of the Floodplain Pride and the “Five Musketeers” in the lower Hoanib River during the past year. The Desert Lion Project and Into Nature Productions have made a concerted effort to facilitate the viewing of the lions and to promote the tourism potential of lions in the Hoanib area. Unfortunately the irresponsible and selfish behaviour of some tourists and even established tour-guides have recently resulted in significant disturbances to the lions that prevented many other visitors from observing them. There appears to be a need to provide guidelines to tourists on how to approach lions.

24 Dec 2014. Camera Traps. Joshua Kazeurua of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, supported by the Namibian Police, came to investigate the activities of a convoy of vehicles and motorbikes that illegally entered the Skeleton Coast Park (photo: top right, also see 13 & 18 Dec 2014). A donation of five new camera-traps with specially designed protective housings was received from Martin Schmidt (photo: bottom right).

23 Dec 2014. "Vanishing Kings" Video Clip. An unofficial version of the "Vanishing Kings" promotional video has leaked onto the Internet and social media. Into Nature Productions are collaborating with the Desert Lion Project to produce a wildlife documentary on the behaviour of the desert-adapted lions (see 13 Nov 2014 for details). The Floodplain Pride were reunited during the night and moved eastwards along the Hoanib River.

22 Dec 2014. Floodplain Split. The two sub-groups of the Floodplain Pride moved closer to each other during the night. Xpl-55 with two “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 & 92) walked from the western edge of the Floodplain to within 3 km of the second group (Xpl-69 with 3 “Musketeers”) that are amongst the granite boulders south of the Hoanib River. They are expected to meet-up this evening.

21 Dec 2014. Two Groups. The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-69) met up with the three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93). Against all expectations they did not return to the rest of the pride that are still feeding on a carcass on the edge of the dune-belt (photo: top). Instead they moved to the southeast of the Floodplain (photo: bottom). This is the first known occasion of the Floodplain Pride forming separate sub-groups with an adult present in both groups.

20 Dec 2014. Xpl-69. The Floodplain lionesses crossed the dune-belt from the coast to the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. It is suspected that they killed a large prey animal in an inaccessible area because they have not moved since yesterday evening. During the night one of the lionesses (Xpl-69) walked approximately 17 km to find the three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) that stayed behind on the Floodplain.

19 Dec 2014. Dune Crossing. At dawn the Floodplain lionesses and two of the “Musketeers” (“Adolf” & “Harry”) were observed crossing over the dunes from the coast to the Hoanib Floodplain.

18 Dec 2014. Illegal Traffic. The full extent of the damage to the sensitive gravel plains in the Skeleton Coast Park, caused by a convoy of seven vehicles and two motorbikes (see 13 Dec 2014 below), has not yet been realised. Whilst monitoring lion movements south of the Hoanib River the off-road tracks of the convoy was discovered at several locations (see photos below). A section of the off-road route driven by the convoy is displayed on the map below (distance = 55.7 km). The convoy camped inside the Skeleton Coast Park on 11 Dec 2014 (see blue dot on map). They used a vehicle to drag large logs to the camp (photo: bottom left) and made a massive fire that was still hot two days later (photo: bottom middle). In consultation with the MET staff at Mowe Bay, efforts are currently underway to rehabilitate some of the tracks.

17 Dec 2014. Dart 3 "Musketeers". The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) were immobilised to lengthen their satellite collars. The satellite collars of all “Five Musketeers” will be replaced with new collars in March 2015. Michael Katjau of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism assisted with the darting and adjustments of the collars (photos: below left & middle).

16 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers-2. The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93) that became separated from their brothers killed a smallish prey animal, possibly an Oryx calf, during the night. They are constantly searching for rest of their Pride.

15 Dec 2014. Three Musketeers. Xpl-90 “Polla”, Xpl-91 “Ben and Xpl-93 “Tullamore” separated from their two brothers and the lionesses. The three males are currently south of the Hoanib River inside the Skeleton Coast Park whilst the rest of the Pride is at the mouth of the Hoanib River (photo: bottom).

14 Dec 2014. Caracal. The adult female caracal (Xfc-1) marked with a radio collar was located on the southern side of the Hoanib Floodplain. She is still lactating but her young have not yet been observed. Three of the “Five Musketeers” (Polla, Ben & Tullamore) separated from the rest of the Pride and they are currently north of the Floodplain.

13 Dec 2014. Atrocity. Shocking scenes were witnessed as two motorbikes and seven vehicles entered the Skeleton Coast Park illegally and caused significant destruction to the pristine environment. Whilst observing the Hoanib Floodplain Pride, the convoy was spotted crossing the pink gravel plains north of the Hoanib Floodplain towards Ganias spring. The motorbikes and the vehicles avoided the established road in the Skeleton Cast Park and drove across the virgin plains, leaving scars that will be visible for many decades. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) were contacted immediately via a satellite phone to report the incident. The day was spent tracking the movements of the convoy and standing by to provide support to MET. The convoy of vehicles moved rapidly over the gravel plains and, in spite of the efforts of MET to deploy a helicopter with Police officials from Palmwag, they disappeared in the direction of the Hoaruseb River.

Video clip of vehicles and motorbikes driving off-road in the Skeleton Coast Park.

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12 Dec 2014. Hoanib River Flood. The Hoanib River came down in flood during the night. The floodwaters reached the border of the Skeleton Coast Park at 07h15, but it was too weak to reach the Floodplain. Many animals and birds were observed taking a refreshing drink from the unexpected event.

11 Dec 2014. Towards Hunkap. After Xpl-45 recovered from the immobilisation to fit a new satellite collar, the Obab lionesses moved northwards towards the Hunkap River. The Black-backed jackal den north of the Kharugaiseb River is still active and the four pups were observed.

10 Dec 2014. Obab Lionesses. A sub-group of the Obab Pride was observed moving amongst the basalt hills west of the Beacon River. Xpl-45 “Lovechild” (photo: bottom left) was immobilised to replace her faulty satellite collar.

9 Dec 2014. Obab. During the night the Obab lionesses were located in the upper Samanab River. They crossed over into a tributary of the Beacon River where they were observed hunting a small herd of Oryx (photos: top left & right). Several images of an adult male leopard were recorded by a camera-trap at the lower Obab spring.

8 Dec 2014. Oryx. During the night the Floodplain lionesses returned to find the “Five Musketeers” west of Amp’s Poort. They then moved eastwards to the Mudorib River. Many of the Oryx herds are accompanied by neonates and the lions have actively been hunting and catching Oryx calves.

7 Dec 2014. Dust Storm. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” remained apart in the vicinity of Amp’s Poort for another full day. A severe dust storm raged throughout the afternoon that, at times, reduced visibility to a few metres (photo: bottom). The lions and most other wildlife species took cover from the wind wherever they could and there was little activity until long after sunset.

6 Dec 2014. Giraffe Hunters. The “Five Musketeers” are living up to the legacy of the “Queen” Xpl-10. They displayed advanced levels of co-ordinated co-operation, skill and patience during an elaborative hunt on a bull giraffe in the Hoanib River (photos: below).

5 Dec 2014. Hunting. The “Five Musketeers” continued moving on their own along the banks of the Hoanib River. They embarked on a number of opportunistic hunts, but they were unsuccessful (see photos below). The Floodplain lionesses moved northwards along the Tsuxib River and have not yet returned to the males.

4 Dec 2014. Lions at Amp's Poort. At sunrise the Floodplain lionesses left the 5 sub-adult males at Amp’s Poort as they continued hunting for Oryx and giraffes along the Hoanib River. The “Five Musketeers” spent the day on the southern bank of the river where they made several half-hearted hunting attempts on small herds of springboks.

3 Dec 2014. Amp's Poort Clan. The brown hyaena study, led by Emsie Verwey, is producing interesting results. Four den sites for the Amp’s Poort clan have been identified. A one-year old hyaena (photos: top four) is seen regularly at the active den. Xhb-16 “Joey” is the mother of this cub, which is the only survivor from a litter of two. At least four different individual hyaenas have been observed at the den. Photos: middle row by Gudi McRoberts.

2 Dec 2014. Hoanib River. The Floodplain Pride remained close to the lower Hoanib River where large numbers of prey animals concentrate in the riverbed during the day.

1 Dec 2014. Oryx Kill. The Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” killed an adult Oryx at the break of dawn. Into Nature Productions captured beautiful images as the lions consumed the Oryx carcass in less than two hours. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Lianne & Will Steenkamp of Into Nature for their commitment and dedication to producing a wildlife documentary that will be an authentic depiction of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions.