News - 2015


31 Jan 2015. Obab Females. During the night the four Obab lionesses moved east of the dunes and into the Uniab River as they continued to search for prey. They were observed hunting another ostrich and an Oryx.

30 Jan 2015. Uniab Dunes. The recent rains and flooding of the ephemeral rivers have restricted access to large areas. The lower section of the Uniab River, however, was not affect by the floods. Four of the Obab lionesses were located in the dunes east of the Uniab Delta. They were observed hunting an ostrich.

29 Jan 2015. Hoanib Mouth. The force of the Hoanib River floodwaters managed to cut through 12.4 km of sand dunes after it dammed up against the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain (see images 28 Jan 2015). The floodwaters then continued for another 4.5 km through reeds and sedges before it ran out of steam a few hundred metres from the ocean.

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28 Jan 2015. World of Extremes. Extraordinary scenes were witnessed and documented during the past few days as the floodwaters in the Hoanib River increased and filled up the Floodplain. The “Five Musketeers” became trapped on an island as the waters levels rose. They eventually braved the strong currents and swam across to the southern bank of the river (photos: second row). On the morning of 27 Jan 2015 the water broke through the dunes towards the sea (photos below).

26 Jan 2015. Floodwaters Continue. The Hoanib River was a sight to behold as the floodwaters continued to flow throughout the night. By late-morning the water level was substantially higher at the border of the Skeleton Coast Park than the pervious day. The water also reached the dunes as large sections of the Floodplain has filled up.

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25 Jan 2015. Flash Floods. The Floodplain lioness (Xpl-69) that is in oestrous did not respond to the distant calls from the rest of her pride. She moved in an easterly direction instead and roared occasionally as she searched for a mate (photo: top). During the early morning hours she killed an Oryx in the Hoanib River and then became trapped on a small island when the floodwaters arrived at 09h30. She guarded her kill for several hours, but eventually waded through the water to the southern bank. The floodwaters also trapped a small herd of giraffes in the rivers (photo: 2nd row left), but they too managed to get to the bank.

24 Jan 2015 13h00. Hoanib Flood. The Hoanib River came down in full flood this morning. The floodwaters reached Amp’s Poort at 09h30. The force of the flood and the volume of water had not been seen for many years. One of the Floodplain lionesses became trapped on an island in the River and she is being monitored.

24 Jan 2015. Lone Lioness. One of the Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-69) is in oestrous and has left the pride. Her behaviour has been unusual as she is clearly search for a male. Unfortunately there are no adult male lions in a very large area beyond her extended home range. The past two days have been overcast with soft rain falling occasionally.

23 Jan 2015. Ostrich - 2. The mystery of how an adult male ostrich ended up at the bottom of a narrow hole (1.2 metres deep; see 22 Jan 2015) could not be solved. One theory is that a brown hyaena might have stashed the carcass in the hole. A camera-trap mounted at the hole showed that the lioness returned to the scene (photos: top left), but unfortunately she knocked the camera over before pulling the ostrich out of the hole. The lioness protected the carcass against a bombardment of Pied crows (photos: bottom left) before dragging it to the shade of a nearby rock overhang.

22 Jan 2015. Ostrich. A lioness was located inside a deep hole in the ground in the lower Hoanib River (photo: below left). After the lioness left the area an ostrich carcass was found inside the hole (photos: below). Tracks in the surrounding area were examined, but it is unclear how the ostrich carcass got into the hole. A camera-trap was activated to monitor further activities at the carcass.

21 Jan 2015. Uniab Mouth. A report was received by the MET staff of Skeleton Coast Park that tracks of 2 to 3 lions had been spotted near the beach at the mouth of the Uniab River. The report was investigated and after several hours of searching the area it was confirmed that the tracks were those of brown hyaenas (photo: bottom right).

20 Jan 2015. Hunting Alone. Xpl-69 separated from the rest of the Floodplain Pride and moved to the eastern edge of the Hoanib Floodplain. The lioness hunted actively for giraffes and Oryx. More than 10 hunts, mainly on giraffe, where observed, but she has not yet been successful.

19 Jan 2015. Forty Days. The making of the wildlife documentary on the behaviour of Namibia’s desert-adapted lions, “Vanishing Kings” by Into Nature Productions (see 13 Nov 2014 for details), is nearing completion. Only 40 days of active filming remain. The Desert Lion Project is working closely with Will & Lianne Steenkamp and assisting them to ensure that they get the best possible footage during the final stage of what promises to be an epic film. An elaborative hunt on a herd of giraffes that lasted almost three hours was observed earlier this morning (photos: below).

18 Jan 2015. Okongwe Lions. It is unknown how many lions of the Okongwe Pride are still alive after the killings of the “Terrace Male (Xpl-68) on 24 Aug 2014 and the satellite-collared lioness (Xpl-96) on 23 Oct 2014. During both incidents the satellite collars were destroyed, but it was still possible to verify the mortalities by investigating the last recorded positions of the collars. However, the mortalities of unmarked lions may have gone undetected. Fieldwork and images from the two camera-traps in the Okongwe area suggests that at least one adult lioness (Xpl-70 - with a faulty satellite collar; photo: right) and three sub-adult lions (photos: left) may still be alive.

17 Jan 2015. Spotted Hyaenas. There appears to be a marked increase in the numbers and activities of spotted hyaenas in the study area during the past year. The increase has been most noticeable in the Okongwe area (see camera-trap photos below), the Hunkap, Barab & Springbok Rivers, and around Gai-Ais spring (see News 15 Jan 2015).

16 Jan 2015. Hunting Success. The “Five Musketeers” have become skilled hunters. Observations on the hunting behaviour of the Floodplain Pride during the past few days, as they moved in and around the lower Hoanib, have confirmed that they participate actively with the lionesses in co-ordinated co-operative hunts. Earlier this morning they succeeded in capturing two animals during a single hunt on a herd of Oryx: a lioness captured a calf whilst one of the sub-adult males “Tullamore” (Xpl-93) brought down an adult female Oryx. The Pride consumed both carcasses within a couple of hours.

15 Jan 2015. Thank You. During the past week approximately 30,000 photographs were downloaded from seven different camera-traps. On three occasions during the past 4 months some tourists visiting Gai-Ais & Hunkap springs cleaned the lenses of the camera-traps that had become covered in mud from (mainly) zebras rubbing against them. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank those individuals for their consideration. More than 10,000 photographs (including all the photos below) would not have been usable were it not for their acts of kindness.

14 Jan 2015. . Floodplain. The Floodplain Pride moved deep into the dunes north of the Floodplain. The area was too sensitive to follow them.

13 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". The Floodplain Pride was located in the maze of washes and granite outcrops south of Sima Hill. After being apart for almost a week the “Five Musketeers” reconnected with the lionesses and they are all in good condition, except for Xpl-90 “Polla” who is limping slightly with an injury to his left front leg.

12 Jan 2015. Stuck. The Land Cruiser became badly stuck in soft drift-sand that formed due to the recent south-westerly winds. After much digging and cussing the vehicle was eventually freed 16 hours later. However, the problem of punctures to the worn tires is continuing.

11 Jan 2015. Snags. After Xpl-98 recovered from the anaesthetics, he destroyed a camera-trap that was mounted nearby to monitor his recovery. The only usable images were of the lion grabbing and biting the camera (photos: top left & middle). A total of five flat tires had to be repaired during the day and the vehicle became badly stuck in the mud along the Ugab River and again in the dunes near the Uniab River.

10 Jan 2015. Another "Miles". A three-year old male lion (Xpl-98) was immobilised in the Ugab River north of the Brandberg and he was fitted with a satellite collar. Using vibrissae spot patterns the lion was identified as the cub of Xpl-75 “Angela”. He was born in Feb 2012 in the Huab River (photo: right) and there is a high probability that the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) is his farther. It is also an odd coincidence that Xpl-98 is related to “Miles” (Xpl-16) - the first lion to disperse and settle in the Ugab River after the population crash of the 1980s / 1990s. Born in the Agab River, “Miles” was the son of Xpl-17 and he had two siblings (Xpl-22 female & Xpl-23 male). Xpl-22 is the mother of Xpl-75 “Angela”.

9 Jan 2015. Ugab Lions. The tracks of two lions, including the sub-adult male that was located yesterday, were followed in an on-going effort to fit a satellite collar. The influx of lions in the Ugab River is a significant development and it is essential that their movements be monitored closely.

8 Jan 2015. Ugab/Huab. The tracks of a sub-adult male lion were followed from the Doros Crater area to the Ugab River. An attempt to immobilise the lion to fit a satellite collar failed due to a faulty dart.

7 Jan 2015. Rotating Antenna. The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Joe Noci for the design and building of a directional antenna structure that can be manipulated from inside the vehicle (photo: right). For many years the Project used an antenna fixed to the roof of the vehicle and depended on moving the vehicle in order to determine the direction of signals. The new system is effective and saves a lot of time.

6 Jan 2015. Ugab River. There is a marked increase in lion movements between the Huab and Ugab Rivers. Several sub-adult lions from the 2012 litters of the two Huab lionesses have settled in the Ugab River. A camera-trap mounted in the Ugab River several months ago has been removed. The “Five Musketeers” killed an adult Hartmann’s zebra in the mountains near Okongwe.

5 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". During the night the “Five Musketeers” started moving southwards back to the Hoanib River. Although they had not eaten for many days, they are in good condition.

4 Jan 2015. "Musketeers". The “Five Musketeers” moved independently of the lionesses for the first time. It is suspected that they responded to the roars of the Okongwe Pride and walked > 22 km into the northern Okongwe Mountains.

3 Jan 2015. Obab Females. Since a satellite collar was fitted to Xpl-45 “Lovechild” of the Obab Pride on 10 Dec 2014, their movements have been most interesting (see map). Over a 20-day period they walked a total distance of 312 km, following a pattern similar to that used by the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) and Xpl-77 the Dorob Male “Victor”.

2 Jan 2015. Hoanib Camp. A camera-trap mounted at the waterhole near the Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Camp is collecting valuable monitoring data.

1 Jan 2015. New Year. The Obab lionesses have remained in the Uniab dunes close to the coast. Their movements are being monitored.

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