News - 2014


March

31 Mar 2014. Hoanib River. Parts of the lower Hoanib River is still wet from the recent floods. The surrounding area is covered with green Stipogrostus grasses. The movements of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and the Floodplain lionesses are being monitored closely with the hope that they will meet-up. The lionesses are due to come into estrous quite soon.

30 Mar 2014. Water Pools. With the recent rains several smaller ephemeral drainage lines between the Samanab & the Kharugaiseb Rivers, and the Kharugaiseb itself, came down in flood, leaving big pools of water dammed-up against the dunes. Between 23 and 26 Mar 2014 the Floodplain lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” remained at the same location and it was suspected that they might have killed a giraffe. The area was inspected and evidence was found that they killed two Oryx and one ostrich instead.

29 Mar 2014. Repairs. Three BFG Mud Terrain tires, donated by Michelin (SA), and a BFG All Terrain (donated by Joe Noci) were fitted to the Land Cruiser. Thanks go to Peter Sander and Adolf Huester for support with the tire emergency. The eastern skies were filled with big thunderclouds in the late afternoon and lightning at night. Attempts are now being made to reach the Hoanib River via the Uniab River.

28 Mar 2014. Mowe Bay. Repairs to the Land Cruiser are currently underway at the Mowe Bay Cabin.

27 Mar 2014. "Whitey". For the past twenty years Metusalag Gawuseb “Whitey” worked under the employment of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism at the Ugab entrance gate to the Skeleton Coast Park. Helpful and friendly to visitors of the Skeleton Coast Park, “Whitey” has become a well-known and likable character and he undoubtedly is the face of Ugab Gate. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank “Whitey” for his enthusiasm and help over the years.

26 Mar 2014. Huab in Flood. Floodwaters in the Huab River reached and crossed the main coastal road in the Skeleton Coast Park. It was not too difficult to cross the river at 12h00 on 25 Mar 2014, but the water level appeared to be rising.

25 Mar 2014. Tires. The rough terrain and rain during the past 10 days took its toll on the Land Cruiser’s tires, leaving the vehicle with only two functional tires. Fieldwork will continue in a few days time once the damaged tires have been replaced and fitted to the vehicle.

24 Mar 2014. More Rain. Heavy showers along the coastline south of Mowe Bay left big pools of water that covered large sections of the road.

23 Mar 2014. Rain. Widespread rains settled over the desert during the past few days. Steady showers were even recorded along the coast and large areas are not accessible by vehicle.

22 Mar 2014. Mud Terrain. The Hoanib Floodplain has become waterlogged and it is not possible to access the area. Two Mud-Terrain tires were damaged beyond repair by sharp rocks that penetrated the sidewalls of the tires. A family of Gerrhosaurus lizards were observed in the dunes west of the Hoanib Floodplain.

21 Mar 2014. Rain & Tires. The recent rainfall and local flooding of the ephemeral rivers created many problems trying to access areas near the Uniab and Hoanib Rivers. An unusual number of punctures also restricted movements.

20 Mar 2014. "Lion Ranger" Training. The training of 12 selected members of the Purros, Sesfontein, Anabeb & Torra Conservancies to become “Lion Rangers” has been a great success. The trainees participated actively in all aspects of the training programme and all 12 passed the final examination. The training course was supported and funded by IRDNC (with special efforts from Russell Vinjevold) and NAMSOV Community Trust.

19 Mar 2014. Wereldsend. Amidst a massive thunderstorm and close to 20 mm of rain, preparations started for a training course for 12 members of the Purros, Sesfontein, Anabeb & Torra Conservancies at Wereldsend. The training is directed at managing the conflict between lions and the local communities and the 12 trainees, who were selected by their conservancies, will become the future “Lion Rangers”.

18 Mar 2014. Brown hyaenas. The camera-traps on the Hoanib Floodplain have continued to capture images of brown hyaenas carrying Cape fur seal carcasses throughout February and the early part of March 2014. See News 25 Jan 2014 for more information on this amazing behaviour. Two brown hyaenas (an adult and a sub-adult) were observed south of the Floodplain (photo: left).

17 Mar 2014. Uniab Delta. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) remained at the Uniab Delta and several tourists spotted him at one of the springs near the road. He only became active after sunset and he was observed hunting for Oryx near the mouth of the Uniab River.

16 Mar 2014. Musketeer. The Floodplain Pride was observed as they moved through the granite boulders south of the Hoanib River searching for prey. One of the “Five Musketeers”, Xpl-90 “Polla”, found a rather awkward resting place on a ledge halfway up a boulder (photo: top), but there was shade and he spent the most of the day resting there (photos: bottom row).

15 Mar 2014. Hoanib Flood. A camera-trap mounted at a narrow gorge on the Hoanib Floodplain captured interesting images of a major flash flood on 26 Feb 2014. The flood exceeded the levels of recent years and the camera, which was mounted above the known waterline since 2005, was drowned. The camera continued taking photographs even though it was underwater, but the water eventually got into the electronics and power supply and the unit failed. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) left his location near the Obab River shortly after the movement update was done yesterday morning and reached the Uniab Delta a few hours later.

The “Terrace Male” on 10 Feb 2014 06h34 Wood debris ahead of flood: 26 Feb 2014 13h38 River in full flood: 26 Feb 2014 16h25
26 Feb 2014 16h34 26 Feb 2014 17h33 River subsided: 27 Feb 2014 17h40

14 Mar 2014. Home Range Data. The satellite collar that was fitted to Xpl-47 “Bianca” of the Hoanib Pride on 9 Sep 2010 failed to send location data after a few months. However, after the collar was removed two days ago (see 12 Mar 2014) it was possible to retrieve valuable data on her movements between 9 Sep 2010 and 16 Jun 2013. The movement data, consisting of 10 locations per day, were safely stored inside the collar. During this period Xpl-47 moved over an area of 2,195 sqr km (see map below). When compared with her movements between 2008 and 2009 (white polygon on map), there was a significant expansion of her movements towards the Hunkap River in the south. Observations on the Floodplain Pride continued as they searched for prey south of the Hoanib River (photos: top & bottom right).

13 Mar 2014. "Five Musketeers". The Floodplain Pride was located south of the Hoanib Floodplain. All the sub-adult males (the “Five Musketeers) were with the three adult lionesses. As a result of the recent rainfall most of the wildlife (except a herd of elephants and a few giraffes) have moved towards the areas with green vegetation. The Floodplain lions have not eaten recently and they are clearly struggling to find food.

12 Mar 2014. "Bianca". With the stroke of good fortune a faint signal from the VHF radio collar of Xpl-59 “E=MC^2” was picked up from a mountain ridge in the upper Mudorib River. The two Hoanib females and their four small cubs were eventually located after many hours of negotiating the rough terrain. They were feeding on the remains of an Oryx carcass. Xpl-47 “Bianca” was immobilised at 21h30. She was fitted with a new satellite collar.

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11 Mar 2014. Kharokhaob. After monitoring the Hunkap lionesses for the night the searched continued for the Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-47 “Bianca” & Xpl-59 “E=MC^2”) in the Kharokhaob and Mudorib area (see animation below). A camera-trap at Hunkap spring recorded both Hunkap males the day after their fight with the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) on 14 Feb 2014 (photos: bottom left & middle), as well as several photographs of cheetahs.

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10 Mar 2014. Hunkap Lionesses. The Hunkap lioness, Xpl-53 “Charlotte”, moved during the day and it was very difficult to get to within 1 – 2 km of her with the vehicle. The time and effort invested in building a new and improved sound system (see 2 Mar 2014) was worthwhile when the system was used successfully to attract her from a distance of more than 5 km. Four lionesses were observed at dusk (photo: left). An adult lioness was immobilised at midnight and a new satellite collar was fitted.

9 Mar 2014. "Charlotte". Xpl-53 “Charlotte” of the Hunkap Pride was located west of Kudu spring. This is a difficult area to access by vehicle and it is covered with green vegetation. The satellite collar of Xpl-53 is running low on battery power. Efforts are underway to reach Xpl-53 and to replace the collar.

8 Mar 2014. Hunkap/Barab. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is still feeding on the carcass at the Uniab Waterfall. Attention was turned to the upper Barab and Hunkap Rivers where there are large concentrations of Hartmann’s zebras & springboks. The area is covered with green vegetation and many flowering plants, such as this Hoodia species – photo: top right.

7 Mar 2014. Xpl-75. The Huab lioness, Xpl-75 “Angela”, has left her three small cubs in a rock outcrop south of the Huab River. During the night she moved southwards along the mountain ridges to the Ugab River in search of prey. Most of the wildlife appears to be concentrating to the southeast near Gai-Ais spring. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is feeding on a carcass (presumably an Oryx kill) at the bottom of the Waterfall of the Uniab Delta. NWR at Terrace Bay were informed of the development.

6 Mar 2014. Green Grass. Widespread rain during the previous fortnight has resulted in a flush of green grass and flowers on the gravel plains between the Ugab and Huab Rivers. This is a difficult time for the lions that inhabit the area because the main prey species (Oryx, Hartmann’s zebra, ostrich & springbok) that normally frequent the ephemeral riverbeds have dispersed in pursuit of the new vegetation. Xpl-75 “Angela” was located 11 km south of the Huab River. She left her three small cubs in the lower Huab River and is searching for prey in the mountains.

Green grass and yellow Tribulus flowers around Gai-Ais spring

The gravel plains covered with green grass south of the Huab River

Xpl-75 “Angela” in the mountains 11 km south of the Huab River

5 Mar 2014. Ugab River. Large sections of the lower Ugab River is inaccessible due to flooding. Lion tracks were found in numerous places, but the limited access made it impossible to search the area properly.

4 Mar 2014. Dorob Lions. The tracks of approximately four sub-adult lions were spotted 6 km south of the Ugab River in the Dorob National Park. The tracks were followed to the Ugab River where the lions entered the Skeleton Coast Park.

3 Mar 2014. Huab River. There has been significant rainfall in the region during the past few days. Floodwaters had already extended past the Jack Scott Bridge in the Huab River (photo below) and it is likely that the area will not be accessible by vehicle for several weeks.

2 Mar 2014. Sound System. The sound system developed problems that resulted from modifications required in order to fit it to the new Land Cruiser. A significant amount of time and energy had to be invested to build an improved system that fits in the new vehicle. The use of sound is of great importance to the Project and it is essential that the sound quality is optimum.

1 Mar 2014. Information Placard. A poster was developed for tourists and visitors of the Skeleton Coast Park that contains information on lions and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68). The placards will be posted at all the major tourism locations of the Skeleton Cost Park.