News - 2014


31 Jul 2014. Mountain Lions. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Okongwe lions are still together in the Okongwe Mountains south of the Gomatum River. They are moving along the high mountain ridges at an altitude of 3,800 feet (1,150 m) – this translate to 2,400 feet (730 m) above ground level at the Gomatum River. Last night Xpl-68 moved 5.2 km with altitude fluctuations of >750 feet (230 m).

30 Jul 2014. Rosh's Vacuum. It can be expected amongst social mammals, like lions, that the sudden death or removal of a prominent breeding male will result in unusual movements & behaviour until a new male or coalition of males claim the vacancy. The curious movement patterns of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) during the past month coincide with the shooting of Xpl-73 “Rosh” on 1 Jul 2014. During this period the “Terrace Male” explored some of the core areas utilised by “Rosh”, which he had not ventured into previously. Last night the “Terrace Male” encountered the Okongwe females in the Gomatum River 22 km east of Purros. It was an interaction charged with social conflict and with a lot of roaring. The Okongwe lions and Xpl-68 then moved over the mountains towards Okongwe.

29 Jul 2014. West of Tomakas. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved westwards along the Gomatum River and settled for the day in a narrow valley on the south side of the mountain range (photo: top). The training course held at the new Hoanib Camp was completed (see 24 & 26/27 Jul 2014). Ten staff members completed the course and passed the final examination. The trainees were subjected to a basic-knowledge test at the start of the course where the average score was 55% (see graph: bottom left). At the end of the two days they were given a comprehensive and substantially more difficult test. In this exam the average result was 71% with all ten individuals scoring above 60%.

28 Jul 2014. "Terrace Male" in Danger. During the night Xpl-68 moved through the highest and most rugged of the Okongwe Mountains and was very close to the Tomakas Villages at 02h00 this morning. By 06h30 he had moved a few hundred metres towards the mountains. All available resources have been pooled and a major effort is underway to avoid or limit livestock losses and conflict with the Tomakas community. And to prevent the iconic “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) from being killed.

26/27 Jul 2014. Hoanib Training. During the past two days a training programme was held for the Guides and Management staff of the new Hoanib Desert Camp of Wilderness Safaris. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was also monitored as he moved through the mountains between the Ganamub River and Okongwe.

25 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 in Obias River. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved northwards along the Obias River. His movements were monitored throughout the night in case he moved to the Tomakas village. Data were collected on the status and condition of the roads around the lower Hoanib River to facilitate in the training programme that starts tomorrow.

24 Jul 2014. Training. A detailed training programme is being prepared for all the new tour guides and managers of the Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp. The training will address the ecology and behaviour of lions and brown hyaenas, collecting systematic data during game drives, and the management of vehicle tracks. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has moved along the Hoanib River towards Elephant Song and may get into contact with livestock and people if he continues.

23 Jul 2014. Salvadora Bush. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) dragged his Oryx carcass inside a thick Salvadora bush on the south bank of the Hoanib River. Several brown hyaenas were observed nearby at sunset (photos below). The Floodplain Pride is currently 14 km to the southwest. The movements of both Xpl-68 and the Floodplain lions are being monitored closely.

22 Jul 2014. "Joey". With the influx of wildlife to the lower Hoanib River the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) succeeded in catching an Oryx on the southern bank of the River just east of the Floodplain. Several brown hyaenas, including the radio-collared female “Joey” (Xhb-16), were observed at the kill (photo: top right).

21 Jul 2014. Hoanib Desert Camp. Monitoring of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) continued and he is still in the lower section of the Hoanib River. Substantial numbers of prey animals, such as Oryx & springbok, have returned to the Hoanib River after they dispersed following the high rainfall earlier in the year. This is good for the lions as they are less likely to move towards human settlements and livestock in their search for food. Building of the new Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp is nearing completion. The Hoanib Camp is expected to open on 1 Aug 2014 (photos: bottom row).

20 Jul 2014. Vehicle Repairs. A large section of the internal infrastructure of the Land Cruiser was dismantled to isolate and repair the electrical problem of the solar power system. Notwithstanding, the sound system is still not working and will have to be repaired tomorrow. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Floodplain Pride have moved closer to each other.

19 Jul 2014. Roaring. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved a short distance along the Hoanib River. He was observed roaring often and he will hopefully make contact with the Floodplain Pride.

17/18 Jul 2014. Floodplain Pride. The two Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were located 16 km south west of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68). They were foraging on the gravel plains where there are concentrations of Oryx and springboks. Repairs to the Land Cruiser are still underway.

16 Jul 2014. Xpl-68. Since his translocation to the Hoanib River the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has been kept under observation during the daylight hours. His behaviour is normal and thus far there is no obvious indication that he wants to return to the Purros area. Repairs to the research vehicle were delayed by the monitoring of Xpl-68, but needs to be completed before any serious work can continue.

15 Jul 2014. Repairs. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) recovered fully from the long sedation and translocation from the Gomatum River. Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is thanked for their support and assistance with the monitoring of Xpl-68 during the past week. The rough conditions and extensive use of the specialised equipment on the research vehicle, especially during the last week with Xpl-68 at Purros, resulted in a breakdown of the solar power system and equipment failure. It is essential to the success of the Project that the vehicle and all its equipment function properly, especially in crisis situations. For example, on 14 Jul 2014 when Xpl-68 was darted there was an electrical failure that prevented the use of important equipment, such as the sound system and lights. These problems will have to be repaired in the field during the next few days.

14 Jul 2014. Necessary Action. At sunset the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) came out of the narrow gorge where he spent the day and headed along the Gomatum River straight towards Tomakas village (photo: top right). An anthropomorphic, but all too realistic, view of a “suicide mission” seems appropriate to describe the behaviour and movement patterns of Xpl-68 during the past week. For reasons of human-lion conflict, public safety in the Purros area, and the survival of the “Terrace Male”, it was decided to relocate him to the Hoanib Floodplain. After a seven-hour drive Xpl-68 was release near the Floodplain in a thick blanket of fog at 05h40 this morning (photo: bottom right). By 06h50 he had recovered sufficiently to start feeding on a springbok carcass (photo: bottom left). The “Terrace Male” was immobilised less than 200 metres from the place where Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot.

13 Jul 2014. Gomatum River. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) started moving at dark and reached the Gomatum River at midnight (see top image). He then followed the Gomatum valley in an easterly direction. This was fortunate since the route took him away from a large cattle post south of Purros, but also concerning because he walked past the place where Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot two weeks ago and towards Tomakas where there are large numbers of livestock.

12 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 in Mountains 2. The movements of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) were monitored intensively from a high vantage point using a combination of VHF telemetry, satellite collar locations and the quad-copter. This was necessary because of the lion’s close proximity to the village and cattle posts. Xpl-68 remained inactive until 01h00 when he started moving through the mountains towards the southwest (see bottom image). At 03h00 he changed direction to the east and may have captured a prey animal because he is still in the same position.

11 Jul 2014 11h00. Xpl-68 in Mountains. It would appear that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) made a kill in the mountains 12 km northeast of Purros (map: bottom left). The kill was possibly made at around 04h00 on 10 Jul 2014. At sunrise he left the location (see red X, map: bottom right) and spent the day between the rocks of a high mountain peak. At sunset he returned to the same place and only vacated the area at dawn. This behaviour is somewhat unusual and it can be speculated that he may have been disturbed at the kill during the daylight hours. This area is inaccessible by vehicle, but small groups of Ovahimba pastoralists are known to utilise the area when surface water is available for their livestock. The Purros Conservancy are not aware of the current locations of these families because they are nomadic and live in temporary settlements.

11 Jul 2014. Xpl-10. Valuable photographs of a lioness feeding on a porcupine at the mouth of the Hoaruseb River on 1 May 2014 were received from Willem Dekker (see link). Heiko Denker is thanked for forwarding this information. The lioness was identified as Xpl-10 (photos: below). The record fills an important gap in the timeline of her whereabouts between 17 Apr 2014 and 12 May 2014.

10 Jul 2014 10h00. Xpl-68 Update. During the night the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was observed hunting donkeys on the gravel plains to the west of the Hoaruseb River. It was possible to capture several photos in the moonlight using long exposure settings (see below). Judging by his condition it is unlikely that Xpl-68 killed any prey during the past 4 days near Purros. Nonetheless, his movement patterns into areas occupied by people and livestock (see map below) are worrying because of the inevitable conflict that will ultimately result in his death.

10 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 at Purros 3. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) moved closer to Purros during the night and rested inside dense vegetation during the day. Despite intensive monitoring of his movements and the presence of a vehicle close to his actual location (using radio telemetry) for the past three days, Xpl-68 has not yet been seen.

9 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 at Purros 2. Thus far there is no evidence that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has killed livestock in the upper Hoaruseb River. He wondered into the mountains to the east during the night and returned to the river shortly before daybreak (see map). The situation is tense because there are people and livestock occupying the area to the north of his current location.

8 Jul 2014. Xpl-68 at Purros. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) walked more than 60 km last night and ended up at the same location (12 km north of Purros, see photo: top), which he visited several times during the past few months. There are still many donkeys in the area and it is assumed that he killed one early this morning. The “Five Musketeers” were observed at sunrise this morning as they moved northwards along the Tsuxib River (photos: bottom row).

7 Jul 2014. Floodplain Pride. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) missed an encounter with the Floodplain lionesses by several hours – Xpl-68 moved northwards towards Okongwe at sunset and the lionesses arrived from the south at his earlier location near Amp’s Poort sometime after midnight. The Floodplain pride, including the “Five Musketeers”, was located with the aid of the quad-copter (photos: top & bottom left). By morning the “Terrace Male (Xpl-68) had reached Purros and he returned to his usual spot in the Hoaruseb River where he kills donkeys.

6 Jul 2014. Hoanib Dynamics. Although the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is moving over a very large area he continuously returns to the Hoanib River. With the recent death of Xpl-73 “Rosh” there is a strong possibility that the “Terrace Male” will connect with the Floodplain lionesses and that he could become the new “Hoanib” male, following in the footsteps of Xpl-3 “Adolf” (photo: bottom left – Floodplain Aug 2009) and Xpl-73 “Rosh” (photo: bottom right – mating with Xpl-69 Aug 2011).

5 Jul 2014. Value of Technology. Integrating the latest technology with field-based wildlife research, such as the Desert Lion Project, can be problematic and one can easily become side-tracked in the process. However, when appropriate these technological additions can be of significant value. For example, satellite imagery linked to navigation software on an iPad (see 2 Jul 2014) made it possible to find the two Hunkap males on a zebra carcass in mountainous terrain at night (see map - blue line indicates the route driven as guided by the satellite image). Furthermore, it was also possible to observe the lions in total darkness using infrared video equipment (photos: below).

4 Jul 2014. Xpl-87. The two Hunkap males (Xpl-81 “Kebbel” & Xpl-87) were pursued in the mountains east of Orowau spring (see panorama animation below) with the aim of locating the lionesses that are currently utilising the area. The males killed a zebra during the early morning hours and with a stroke of luck it was possible to reach the location with the research vehicle in the dark. At sunrise Xpl-87 was photographed at the kill (photos: bottom row). Hopes are that the lionesses will visit the carcass tonight.

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3 Jul 2014. "Rosh" is dead. Xpl-73 “Rosh” was shot in the Gomatum River 20 km southeast of Purros on 1 Jul 2014. It is yet unknown why he was killed, but the Lion Rangers of the Purros Conservancy will be making inquiries. “Rosh” was a legend and for the past four years he was the dominant male in the northern section of the Desert lion population. Born in the Uniab River, he died at the age of ten years. He was one of the most valuable lions for tourism and was observed regularly by visitors and tour groups. He was fitted with a satellite radio collar on 8 Sep 2010 and his movements and behaviour was studied intensively until he died. During this time he moved a total distance of 15,012 km (n = 22,873 data points) at an average of 11.8 km/day (range: 0 – 58.5 km) over an area of 11,595 sqr km (see map below). At a time when adult male lions were rare “Rosh” played a key role in the population. He was associated with five different prides and was recorded to mate with 16 different lionesses. Depending on DNA analysis, to confirm paternity, Xpl-73 is believed to have fathered a total of 32 cubs, including the “Five Musketeers”.

2 Jul 2014 09h00. Xpl-73 "Rosh". It would appear that “Rosh” (Xpl-73) might have been shot yesterday afternoon. The locations of his satellite collar (see Xpl-73) indicate that he moved 20.4 km between 14h51 and 18h51 to the Purros settlement. The collar has not moved since.

2 Jul 2014. Orowau. Despite using satellite images, navigation software and a quad-copter to search for passages though the mountains (photos: top row), the terrain remains problematic and large sections are inaccessible. The two Hunkap males (Xpl-81 “Kebbel” & Xpl-87) were observed with night-vision equipment near Orowau spring. They were still attracted to and feeding on the remains of the leopard baits (photos: bottom row).

1 Jul 2014. Onjoka. Finding lions and negotiating the mountainous terrain between Orowau and the upper Aub/Barab Rivers is difficult. A system is being developed using high quality satellite imagery and navigation software on an iPad to find drivable routes through the mountains (photo: left). Xpl-81 “Kebbel” was spotted briefly at distance. Boas Hambo is thanked for providing photos of lions observed in the area.