News - 2014


May

31 May 2014. "Rosh" Alive. Xpl-73 “Rosh” was located and observed approximately 10 km southwest of Sesfontein by Emsie Verwey of Wilderness Safaris. He was lying under a small Mopane bush feeding on what appeared to be an Oryx carcass. Although this is an area of high potential conflict with the local community, there were no livestock in the immediate area. Hopes are that the lion will vacate the area soon and that active fieldwork can be continued shortly. The photo of Xpl-73 (below) was taken several months ago.

30 May 2014. Camera-trap Images-3. The Floodplain Pride and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) were captured by the array of camera-traps on the Hoanib Floodplain during the past six weeks. Xpl-73 “Rosh” has not moved for 24 hours and he is close to human settlements. Emsie Verwey of Wilderness Safaris is currently investigating the situation.

29 May 2014. "Terrace Male" at Purros. The Desert Lion Project has not been able to respond to the potential problem of the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) at Purros. Pieter de Wet of Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is thanked for monitoring the situation and providing updates. Emsie Verwey of Wilderness Safaris at Hoanib Camp has been instrumental in facilitating communications.

28 May 2014. Camera-trap Images-2. Several cheetahs were recorded by the camera-traps on the Hoanib Floodplain and at Ganias spring during the past two months and the male leopard is still moving on the Floodplain.

27 May 2014. Camera-trap Images-1. During April and May 2014 there were large numbers of elephants utilising the Hoanib Floodplain. Images retrieved from the array of camera-traps revealed that several different groups visited the Floodplain, including those normally seen in the Hoaruseb River. The Hoaruseb elephants were also captured on the camera-trap at Ganias spring (photos: top row) as they crossed the gravel plains between the two ephemeral rivers. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) has returned to the Hoaruseb River north of Purros.

26 May 2014. Movement Updates. The Floodplain lions have moved out of the Tsuxib Hills towards Sima Hill and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is still in the lower Hoaruseb River.

25 May 2014. Vehicle Service. Active fieldwork has been stopped for a week. The Land Cruiser is in need of a major service and a few minor repairs. The daily movement updates of satellite collared lions will continue during this period.

24 May 2014. Dunes. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) crossed the dune-belt to the mouth of the Hoanib River and then turned northwards following the western edge of the dunes (approximately 5 km from the coast) towards the mouth of the Hoaruseb River. The prey animals that he normally relies on (mainly Oryx) have not yet returned to the area after they dispersed following the unusually high rainfall earlier in the year.

23 May 2014. "Terrace Male". The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was observed at the base of Auses spring in the Hoanib Floodplain. He is in good condition despite the food shortage that he and the other lions inhabiting the western section of the Desert had to endure over the past few months. The Floodplain Pride and all “Five Musketeers” have been reunited.

22 May 2014. Hoanib Lions. At daybreak large sections of the lower Hoanib River was covered with a thick layer of fog. The visibility was <20 metres and it were not possible to drive in the rocky terrain until a half-hour after sunrise when the fog lifted. The Floodplain lions remained in the hills east of the Tsuxib River, Xpl-47 “Bianca” was located at the Hoanib/Obias junction and the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) visited Amp’s Poort.

21 May 2014. Two Porcupines. The Okongwe lions have been causing problems near Tomakas in the Gomatum River by killing at least one cow and a horse. Efforts to locate the lions failed because they moved deep into the northern Okongwe Mountains – an area inaccessible by vehicle. The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91, 93; see 20 May 2014) killed two porcupines early this morning. They appear to be learning how to catch porcupines without getting injured because none of them had visible quills embedded in their chests or necks.

20 May 2014. Three "Musketeers". The three sub-adult males that separated from the Floodplain Pride were located and observed. Xpl-93 “Tullamore” still has a few porcupine quills (see 11 May 2014) stuck to his lower chest (photo: top right). The quills do not seem to bother him and there does not appear to be any infection.

19 May 2014. Floodplain Pride. During the night the Floodplain lionesses and the two “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 & Xpl-92) returned to the spot where Xpl-10 died. They then moved in a northeasterly direction towards the Tsuxib River. A small herd of elephants was observed crossing the gravel plains southwest of Sima Hill.

18 May 2014. The "Queen" is dead. Xpl-10 died at 13h26 yesterday afternoon. The events during the past 48 hours leading up to her death were both traumatic and fascinating. Xpl-10’s condition deteriorated during a raging sandstorm that lasted more that two days. The rest of the Floodplain Pride moved westwards during the night, but her daughter (Xpl-69) stayed behind and remained close to Xpl-10 until she died (photos: top & second row left). An autopsy was performed on Xpl-10 at the Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp. The preliminary findings show that a puncture wound (probably caused by the canine of another lion) on her lower spine/pelvis (photo: bottom right) caused a major infection and possible damage to her spinal column. In addition, her kidneys were enlarged and may not have functioned properly. The right kidney was solid and much larger than the left. The carcass of Xpl-10 will be processed and her skeleton will be reconstructed and placed in the Hoanib Camp Research Centre or in the Mowe Bay Museum.

17 May 2014. Watching over Xpl-10. The “Queen” (Xpl-10) has been kept under 24-hour surveillance since the translocation back to the Hoanib Floodplain. Her condition, albeit perilous, appeared to improve somewhat during the night. It has been very difficult to observe and record the fate of such a key lioness of the Desert population. But, it is a policy of the Desert Lion Project not to interfere in the “natural” developments surrounding the lion population. It is only with human-related events that exceptions are made.

16 May 2014. Xpl-10. Although Xpl-10 recovered fully from the anaesthetics, was reunited with her Pride and had eaten well during the past three days, her condition remains critical. She may not recover from her desperately poor condition and the injuries she sustained to her lower spine and pelvis. An adult female cheetah was spotted in the lower Hoanib River. As soon as the vehicle stopped to observe the cheetah, she ran up the bank of the river and walked northwards over the dusty plains.

15 May 2014. Three "Musketeers". The missing three “Musketeers” that killed the porcupine on 11 May 2014 were located and observed. Xpl-91 “Ben” had removed the quills embedded in his chest and the three males did not sustain injuries from their encounter with the porcupine.

14 May 2014. Xpl-10 Reunion. The "Queen" (Xpl-10) survived the relocation from Purros to the Hoanib Floodplain and recovered well from the anaesthetics. She was reunited with her Pride during the night and at sunrise they were feeding on the remains of an Oryx carcass. Xpl-10 is still very weak and mostly sleeps in between feeding bouts. But, she appears to be making a recovery from the period of severe food deprivation that most of the lions in the western section of the desert had to endure when the wildlife dispersed after the high rainfall. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is still 10 km north of Purros. He killed an ostrich and Izak & Inki Smit kindly agreed to monitor Xpl-68 whilst the Desert Lion Project attends to Xpl-10.

13 May 2014. Locate Xpl-10. Dramatic events enfolded at Purros during the past 36 hours. The “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) was “chased” away from Purros using fireworks and by playing load music (see 15 Apr 2014). The efforts worked well as he immediately faceted the area and moved northwards towards the Khumib River. However, after moving 5 km he encountered more donkeys in the Hoaruseb River and spent the rest of the night inside a thicket presumably feeding on a donkey carcass.

En route to Purros the tracks of a single lioness was spotted at Leyland’s Drift (photo: top left). The tracks were followed and Xpl-10 was eventually located between the Purros settlement and the community campsite. She was in a shockingly poor condition (photo: top right). A report was also received from Collin Kasupi (Lion Ranger) that Xpl-10 “followed” one of the campsite managers earlier in the morning whilst he was collecting firewood. In the interest of public safety and that of the Puros Community, the decision was taken to immobilise Xpl-10 and translocate her back to the Hoanib Floodplain. This was going to be a risky endeavour because Xpl-10 may not survive the long sedation because of her poor condition. Xpl-10 was darted at 19h00. She was loaded in the Land Cruiser and transported to the Floodplain where she was released close to the rest of the Floodplain Pride feeding on the giraffe carcass (photos: bottom row, also see 12 May 2014). We thank Okahirongo Elephant Lodge, Izak & Inki Smit and the Purros Conservancy for their assistance & support.

12 May 2014. Giraffe. The Floodplain Pride (2 lionesses & 2 sub-adult males) killed an adult female giraffe just before sunrise on the eastern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. The giraffe was photographed yesterday afternoon (photo: middle left) and was identified based on its horns and markings on the neck. The three “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, 91 & 93) that killed the porcupine (11 May 2014) have not yet re-joined the Pride and Xpl-10 could not be located. The “Terrace Male” has been close to Purros for several days and another effort will be made to address the conflict situation.

11 May 2014. Porcupine. The three young Floodplain males (Xpl-90, 91 & 93) that separated from the rest of the pride (see 10 May 2014) killed a porcupine during the night. This is the first recorded kill made by members of the “Five Musketeers”. Xpl-91 “Ben” was injured during the encounter (photos: top row) and had several porcupine quills embedded in his chest. The remaining two “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 “Harry” & Xpl-92 “Adolf Jnr”) joined-up with the two lionesses and they were heading towards the Floodplain at sunset (photos: bottom row).

10 May 2014. "Five Musketeers". The five sub-adult males of the Floodplain Pride are starting to move independently of the lionesses. Xpl-93 “Tullamore”, Xpl-90 “Polla” & Xpl-91 “Ben” (indicated by 93 on map below) have separated from the rest of the group. These may be early signs of their eminent dispersal.

9 May 2014. "Tia". A female domestic cat named “Tia”, associated with the Desert Lion Project for the past few years, has died. “Tia” was roughly the same age as Xpl-10 (the “Queen”– who is approaching 16 years). The similarity in behaviour between the two elderly female felines (one a domestic cat and the other a free-ranging lioness) during the past year was remarkable. Xpl-10 is still at large and efforts to locate her continue.

8 May 2014. More Rain? There was a big build-up of clouds in the east and more rain might be expected.

7 May 2014. Wildlife. Patchy rainfall during the past few months resulted in a change in the distribution of wildlife. For several prides of lions most of the prey animals (e.g. Oryx, Hartmann’s zebra & springbok) moved out of their usual home ranges. The prey species are now starting to return to these areas.

6 May 2014. Floodplain Lions. The array of camera-traps on the Hoanib Floodplain is producing valuable data and it contributes significantly to the monitoring of lions and other large carnivores. Two cameras photographed the entire Floodplain Pride (except Xpl-10) on the morning of 1 May 2014 (see below).

5 May 2014. Leopard. An adult male leopard appeared to have settled on the Hoanib Floodplain. Leopard tracks have been observed more frequently and images of a male leopard have been captured on three camera-traps.

4 May 2014. Searching for Xpl-10. The Floodplain Pride, including all 5 “Musketeers”, were located and observed in the Tsuxib River east of Sima Hill. The lions clearly have not had a good meal for more than a week and they were all quite lean. The “Queen” (Xpl-10) was not present and another radio-tracking effort was launched to find her. A second camera-trap on the western edge of the Floodplain recorded images of Xpl-10 on 17 Apr 2014 (see photos below).

3 May 2014. Xpl-73 at Okongwe. Xpl-73 ”Rosh” recovered well from the long sedation and relocation to the southern section of the Okongwe Mountains. He continued moving in a northeasterly direction to the Okongwe waterhole. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank the members of the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa and Will & Liana Steenkamp for their assistance with the effort.

2 May 2014. Translocate Xpl-73. The quad-copter was used with great success to locate the exact position of Xpl-73 “Rosh” in a narrow gorge of the Hoanib River (photo: top left). Observations confirmed that Xpl-73 had not been caught in a gin-trap, but that he killed a cow in a narrow gorge next to a waterhole and a big cave with ample shade. As the cattle came down to drink the lion killed another two animals, which explains why he moved < 20 metres in five days. Xpl-73 was immobilised at 23h52 and, with the assistance of Adolf Huester and members of the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa, he was translocated back to Okongwe. Translocation is an expensive and stressful management option that is not taken lightly. When conditions are right it has a high success rate in solving Human Lion Conflict (see publication on “Suggested management strategy…” under Products and 8–23 Nov 2009 for more details).

1 May 2014. Lucky "Rosh". For the previous five days Xpl-73 “Rosh” has been in one location amongst large numbers of livestock. During the 30 recorded positions from his satellite collar he moved less than 20 metres. This is equivalent to the error expected from GPS locations and it was feared that he had been killed. When he was eventually located it was suspected that he had been caught in a gin-trap (see drag marks photos below). Xpl-73 killed several cattle, but somehow escaped detection. The owners of the livestock were absent it appeared that the cattle have been left unattended for several days. Xpl-73 will be relocated away from the livestock area.