News - 2015


Week 4: 24 - 30 November 2015

During the past week the “Five Musketeers” have remained together. They have fortunately moved away from the Ganamub and Elephant Song areas where more livestock have moved in. The “Musketeers” spent time in the mountains around the Mudorib spring and then moved to the Hunkap River where they encountered and interacted with the Hunkap Pride. The older lionesses (i.e. Xpl-53 “Charlotte”) did not tolerate the young males and they returned to the Mudorib River.
The Floodplain lioness Xpl-55 is believed to have given birth near Auses spring. Her movements are being monitored closely with the hopes of observing the cubs when they become mobile and the lioness decides to lead them out of their lair. The second lioness has been moving around the lower Hoanib River, but she returned regularly to her sister and the cubs.
Most of the week was spent analysing data and finalising the annual research report. The report will contain sections on wildlife numbers in the lower Hoanib River, flooding frequencies of the major ephemeral rivers during 2015, camera-trap data, Cape fox records, caracal movements, cheetah movements, brown hyaena demography & lion ecology.
An adult male leopard was located in the Hoanib River after he was recorded on several camera-traps during the past two years. The leopard was immobilised and fitted with a radio collar.

Week 3: 17 - 23 November 2015

After the death of Xpl-47 “Bianca” an extensive search effort was launched to locate the rest of the Hoanib Pride. Sadly the young lioness Xpl-103 “Tina” (photo: left) that was radio-collared on 6 Nov 2015 and her two siblings could not be found. It is suspected that the three sub-adult lions may have been shot or poisoned at the same time as Xpl-47 and that the radio collar of Xpl-103 “Tina” was destroyed. Notwithstanding, the search for Xpl-103 will continue.
Xpl-59 “E=MC^2”. After several days and nights of searching the 2,500 km^2 area of their home range, the last remaining adult female of the Hoanib Pride (Xpl-59) was located. She was immobilised and fitted with a new satellite collar. The movements of Xpl-59 will be monitored and efforts will be made to prevent further conflict with the local livestock owners.
The “Five Musketeers” flirted with danger on several occasions as they moved closer to livestock and human settlement, but they finally reconnected in the Mudorib River during the week and they have remained together. The five young adult males captured an adult female giraffe in the Mudorib River just north of the Hunkap road (photo: right). They remain a valuable tourism attraction and are observed regularly (photo: below).
During the past week the “Five Musketeers” were deterred from approaching the large numbers of cattle that started moving into the Hoanib River at Elephant Song. The use of fireworks has produced good results and they have vacated the danger area after each event.
A substantial amount of time was spent analysing data and writing an annual research report. A new initiative by Wilderness Safaris where systematic data are collected during “game drives” has produced valuable data. Over a 14-month period data were collected during 1657 “game drives” with 6261 guests. A total of 24,943 animals from 26 different species were recorded. The data were corrected for sampling bias and the frequency of sightings for the five major species are presented here (graph: right).
An analysis of the movement patterns of the Obab Lionesses (Xpl-45 “Lovechild”) indicate that they visit the Uniab Delta at regular intervals (graph: right). On average they remain at the Uniab Delta for 20 days (range: 7 – 60 days.) When at the Uniab Delta they move an average of 4.9 km/day compared to 8.4 km/day when they move inland.
Home range analysis of Xpl-100 - Orowau area Home ranges of Xpl-94 & Xpl-65 - Etendeka area Home range of Xpl-98 - Ugab River
Two cheetahs (one male & one female) were fitted with satellite radio collars in the lower Hoanib River. The adult male moved over an area of 2,119 km^2 before he died after attempting to capture an Oryx (map: right). The adult female cheetah favoured the eastern section of the Hoanib Floodplain and moved over an area of 278 km^2 (map: far right).
Off-road driving and corrugated tracks are some of the problems associated with the growth of tourism in the Hoanib River area. An admirable initiative was taken by Gert Tsabeb, Johan Potgieter and Clement Lawrence of Wilderness Safaris to manage the tracks. They closed unnecessary roads and swept off-road driving tracks (photos: left & right).

Week 3: 23 November 2015. This update will be posted later today.

Week 2: 8 - 16 November 2015

Xpl-47 “Bianca” fell victim to the on-going conflict between people and wildlife. At the age of 12 years, Xpl-47 was killed in the upper Obias River after attacking livestock that moved into the hills to the south of the Giribis plains. The Desert Lion Project feels partly responsible for this development because the promotion and development of tourism in the Hoanib River have resulted in the lions becoming habituated to vehicles. Xpl-47 has lived in the Hoanib area and her movements were monitored with satellite radio collars for the past seven years.
Up until this year Xpl-47 survived several incidents of human-lion conflict by being skittish, but the recent developments in tourism made her vulnerable to vehicles that carry rifles instead of cameras. The large numbers of livestock that roam freely at night in the upper Obias, Giribis, Ganamub & Elephant Song areas are attracting lions such as the rest of the Hoanib Pride (1 Ad Female “Xpl-59” & three sub-adults) and the “Five Musketeers”.
The five young adult males (the “Musketeers”) have been moving long distances. Three of the “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 “Harry”, Xpl-91 “Ben” & Xpl-93 “Tullamore” returned to the Floodplain, but their mothers avoided them and moved to the coast. All five males have been close to the livestock areas (see above) on several occasions, but each time they were deterred using fireworks and prevented from killing livestock.
The other two “Musketeers” (Xpl-90 “Polla” & Xpl-92 “Adolf”) have been favouring the danger areas at Elephant Song and the upper Ganamub & Obias Rivers. Their movements are monitored closely and efforts are continuously made to prevent conflict. Notwithstanding, the number of livestock in the area is a big attraction to the lions and, unless the situation changes, it is likely that the lions could be shot or poisoned. The Desert Lion Project will continue with the attempts to prevent livestock losses.
For the past three weeks the two Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-55 & Xpl-69) have remained in the western section of the Hoanib Floodplain where they have been feeding on Oryx and ostriches. But, when three of their sons (the “Musketeers”, see above) moved onto the Floodplain, they crossed over the dune-belt to Oasis spring and spent several days along the coastal habitat.

Week 1: 1 - 7 November 2015

A protocol to respond to incidents of human-lion conflict was developed further and two short training sessions on the safe use of fireworks and other options were held in the Hoanib River. Rob Ramey & Laura Brown of Desert Elephant Conservation provided valuable information and training on the Hoanib / Hoaruseb elephant sub-population (photo: 2nd right).
Following their victorious clash with the adult male (Xpl-81 “Kebbel”) on 26 Oct 2015 the “Five Musketeers" separated. Xpl-90 “Polla” followed the lioness Xpl-47 “Bianca” to the upper section of the Ganamub River before meeting up with Xpl-92 “Adolf” near Mudorib spring (photo: 1st right). Xpl-92 “Adolf” killed a Hartmann’s zebra high up on a steep mountain slope in the upper Mudorib River (photo: 2nd right). He was first joined by the lioness Xpl-59 “E=MC^2” and then by Xpl-90 “Polla”.
The remaining three “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 “Harry”, Xpl-91 “Ben” & Xpl-93 “Tullamore”) moved to Hunkap spring and then returned to the Hoanib Floodplain (photo: below right). The three males were observed hunting giraffes on several occasions (photos: right & below) and they killed an Oryx near the Hoanib River. They were observed drinking at the “President’s Waterhole” before moving to the Floodplain. *Move mouse over photo below*
The Okongwe area and the eastern section of the Hoanib River were searched for signs of the Okongwe Pride and the three sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride. A camera-trap at Okongwe waterhole provided recent images of the Okongwe Pride (photos: left & right), but they could not be located.
The two Floodplain lionesses (Xpl-55 & Xpl-69) were observed east of Auses spring. The swollen milk glands of Xpl-55 (photo: right) suggest that she is heavily pregnant. Xpl-55 is expected to give birth during the next 1 - 2 weeks. This is an unexpected development since there are no adult males in the near vicinity. However, three months ago when the two lionesses were in oestrous they separated and Xpl-55 could not be located on several occasions. It is possible that she moved south and found a male in the Hunkap or Obab area.
A group of three cheetahs (possibly an adult female with two sub-adults) were observed on the Ganias plains. An effort was made to fit a satellite collar to one of the cheetahs, but they were extremely skittish. Despite a careful approach after sunset, the cheetahs ran from the research vehicle at a distance of 540 metres. The adult female cheetah (Xaj-2) is expected to have small cubs (see 20 Oct 2015) and she has favoured the same area for the past two weeks.
The three sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride separated from their mothers (Xpl-47 “Bianca” & Xpl-59 “E=MC^2”) four months ago when the lionesses mated with the “Five Musketeers”. After an extensive search effort over the past two months, the three lions (1 male & 2 females) were eventually located south of the Hoanib River near the Obias junction. One of the females was immobilised and fitted with a VHF radio collar.