News - 2015


October

31 Oct 2015. "Musketeers". The latest oestrous cycle of the Hoanib lioness Xpl-47 “Bianca” has stimulated conflict between the five males and they have separated. Xpl-90 “Polla” and Xpl-92 “Adolf” moved northwards towards the Hoanib River and they were observed hunting giraffes.

30 Oct 2015. Website Updates. As from November 2015 updates to the website will be done weekly. This reduction in the frequency of website updates has become necessary due to the high satellite costs and the workload, and it will be tested for a few months. The quantity and quality of information will not be reduced, but it will be collated, summarised and presented on a weekly bases instead. Notwithstanding, important developments and/or observations and the movements of satellite-collared lions will still be covered by daily updates. The Hoanib lioness (Xpl-59 “E=MC^2”) was located in the mountainous terrain of the upper Mudorib area (photos below). The “Five Musketeers” are still with the oestrous lioness (Xpl-47 “Bianca”).

29 Oct 2015. Hoanib Lionesses. After the interaction and conflict between the “Five Musketeers” and Xpl-81 “Kebbel” one of the Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-59) moved into the mountains towards Mudorib spring. She was followed with the hope of locating the three sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride, but the terrain proved too difficult.

28 Oct 2015. Support. Xpl-81 “Kebbel” returned to the Orowau area whilst the “Five Musketeers” joined-up and remained in the Hoanib River with Xpl-47 “Bianca”. The Desert Lion Project would like to acknowledge donations from TOSCO (2 satellite collars & batteries for camera-traps / other equipment), the Land Cruiser Club of SA (Iridium satellite phone & vehicle supplies), NAMSOV (fuel expenses for 2015/6), Off Road Centre & Ms. Ingrid Schumann (satellite collars), as well as the on-going support from Simon van Zyl, Jan Arnold, Wilderness Safaris & Adolf Huester. A collection of fireworks and flares was purchased to assist with the management of human-lion conflict situations. The fireworks were tested (photos: below right) and a method was developed to propel a firecracker attached to an arrow so that it explodes overhead (photo: below 2nd from left). TOSCO released a video-clip on their partnership with the Project.

27 Oct 2015. Partings. During the night the two Hoanib lionesses separated. Xpl-47 “Bianca” is in oestrous and remained near the Ganamub Gorge where she is mating with three of the “Musketeers” (Xpl-90, Xpl-91 & Xpl-92). Xpl-59 “EMC^2” and the other two “Musketeers” (Xpl-89 & Xpl-93) moved into the mountains south of the Obias Junction. The adult male Xpl-81 “Kebbel” also vacated the area and headed back to his normal home range around Orowau spring.

25/26 Oct 2015. Male Lion Conflict. The “Five Musketeers” had their first encounter with an adult male lion (Xpl-81 “Kebbel”- photo: 2nd row left) at Elephant Song. When the five sub-adult males became aware of Xpl-81, they approached him and an altercation enfolded. Data collected from their respective satellite collars indicate that the lions moved extensively amongst the thick vegetation and mountains surrounding the Hoanib River just west of Elephant Song as they battled for dominance. The “Five Musketeers” were victorious. The lioness Xpl-47 “Bianca” came into oestrous, probably stimulated by all the social commotions, and three of the “Musketeers” are currently mating with her. During the night Xpl-81 “Kebbel” made another attempt to displace the “Five Musketeers” from the mating lioness, but they were up to the challenge.

24 Oct 2015. Lion Tourism. During the past week the “Five Musketeers” were deterred from approaching and killing livestock on the Giribis Plain and near the Ganamub village. An effort was made to ensure that the lions do not associate the disturbances with vehicles used for tourism. Tourists have subsequently viewed the “Five Musketeers” on several occasions (photo below). It would appear that the management actions, taken to scare the lions away from livestock and certain conflict with the local communities, have not compromised the tourism value of the lions.

23 Oct 2015. Ganamub River. The “Five Musketeers” moved northwards along the Ganamub River to within 7 km of the Ganamub village where there are large numbers of livestock. A “blockade” was set up between the lions and the village at a narrow section where the river runs through the mountains. Five separate fires were made and they were kept burning all night. At 23h15 the lions turned around and headed back to the Hoanib River. Wilderness Safaris and Desert Elephant Conservation are thanked for their efforts (photos by E Verwey).

22 Oct 2015. Whales. A pod of whales were spotted at the mouth of the Hoanib River. They where estimated to be 2-3 km offshore and were swimming in a southerly direction.

21 Oct 2015. Ganamub. A build-up of clouds inland and a few drops of rain on the Hoanib Floodplain might be promises of early rain for the region. This will relieve the current grazing pressures faced by the livestock owners and their cattle. The “Five Musketeers” moved northwards along the Ganamub River taking them closer to the conflict area.

20 Oct 2015. Cheetah Xaj-2. The “Five Musketeers” did not return to the livestock on the Giribis Plain and they remained in the Hoanib River. However, they moved to the Ganamub Gorge where they are still in close proximity to human settlements and livestock. Efforts are underway to establish a standard protocol to respond to future conflict situations. The adult female cheetah (Xaj-2) was located in the Hoanib River. She appears to be lactating (photo: left), but the cubs must be small and not yet mobile.

19 Oct 2015. Hoanib River. After the lions vacated the area the cattle moved further west into the hills of southern Okongwe and the herders collected the remains of the cow that was killed (photos below). The “Five Musketeers” continued moving southwards and reached the Hoanib River by late morning.

18 Oct 2015. Fireworks. The participation of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Wilderness Safaris & Okahirongo Elephant Lodge with four additional vehicles (photo: top) was key to preventing further stock losses. It was a daunting task with large herds of cattle scattered between the hills. During the night the five male lions made seven attempts to approach and capture livestock, but each time they were prevented from doing so with firework displays that disrupted their activities and forced them to return to the safety of the hills. At 06h00 they finally gave up and headed southwards towards the Hoanib River (photo: bottom). It is anticipated that this success will be short-lived. Due to a lack of food for the numbers of cattle around their normal settlements, the owners are forced to utilise the last available grazing in an area that has been allocated for wildlife & tourism. This area falls within the respective home ranges of four different lion prides (Okongwe, Hoanib, Floodplain & Orowau).

17 Oct 2015. Giribis Plain. The “Five Musketeers” fled from the remains of a cow when three herders on donkeys approached the carcass (photos: top row). They ran into the hills and remained there for the day. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Wilderness Safaris & Okahirongo Elephant Lodge arrived to assist with the problem. At sunset the lions moved back to the edge of the plain and lay watching the cattle (photos: bottom row). As soon as it was dark the lions stalked towards the cattle. Fireworks and flares were used throughout the night to deter the lions. They moved deeper into the hills, but are still within easy reach of the cattle.

16 Oct 2015. NEWS FLASH. During the night the “Five Musketeers & the two Hoanib females moved further east where they encountered large numbers (+- 1000) of cattle grazing on the open plains at the southern point of the Giribis Plain. The wise lionesses vacated the area, but the “Musketeers” killed at least one cow. It is a precarious situation with hundreds of cattle grazing all around the lions and people nearby. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Sesfontein Conservancy were informed and we are waiting for a decision on the best course of action.

16 Oct 2015. Okongwe South. The “Five Musketeers” and the two Hoanib lionesses moved further north into the mountainous terrain south of Okongwe. Efforts are also underway to locate the Okongwe Pride in order to fit a new satellite collar to one of the lionesses.

15 Oct 2015. Sawarugab. The Hoanib lionesses & the “Five Musketeers” moved northwards for 16 km along the Sawarugab River (photo: top). A camera-trap mounted at the remains of the two giraffe carcasses (photos: bottom two rows) captured images of the “Musketeers” and other scavengers utilising the leftovers.

14 Oct 2015. Missing Hoanib Lions. A camera-trap mounted at a spring in the upper Mudorib River captured recent images of the three missing sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride. The three lions are in good condition. Although the area is not accessible by vehicle, efforts will continue to locate the lions in order to fit a radio collar to one of the lionesses.

13 Oct 2015. Cheetah Dead. The adult male cheetah Xaj-1 “Khan” was found dead just north of the Hoanib River at the “President’s Waterhole”. The cheetah was last observed yesterday morning and appeared to be healthy. An autopsy was preformed and revealed striking evidence of a large puncture wound into his left chest cavity and stomach (photo: top right). It is suspected that the mortal wound was made by the horn of an Oryx.

12 Oct 2015. Zebra. The “Five Musketeers” and the two Hoanib lionesses moved 5 km westwards over the mountains and killed an adult male Hartmann’s zebra along a drainage line that feeds into the Mudorib River (photos below).

11 Oct 2015. Movement Updates.

10 Oct 2015. Hunkap/Mudorib. Images were downloaded from several camera-traps in the Hunkap/Mudorib area as the search for the missing sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride continues.

9 Oct 2015. Maintenance. The rough and rocky terrain of the Mudorib/Hunkap area has taken its toll on the research vehicle and tires. Several brackets and mountings inside the cab of the Land Cruiser broke and the rotating antenna system needed attention.

8 Oct 2015. Mudorib Spring. The search for the missing sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride has not produced any results. The Hoanib lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” have left the giraffe carcasses and moved up-river to the Mudorib spring. They are well fed and spend most of the time sleeping.

7 Oct 2015. Mudorib Feast. The two Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-47 & Xpl-59) joined the “Five Musketeers” at their double giraffe kill in the Mudorib River. The lions have now been feeding on the giraffe carcasses for six days. They have consumed most of the edible meat with only skin and bones remaining.

6 Oct 2015. Cheetah "Xaj-1". The adult male cheetah Xaj-1 “Khan” was located south of the Hoanib River near Amp’s Poort. The cheetah had not eaten recently and appeared weak. He will be kept under observation for most of the day.

5 Oct 2015. Missing Hoanib Lions. Photos from several camera-traps around the Hoanib and Mudorib Rivers were scanned to help search for the three missing sub-adult lions of the Hoanib Pride. The adult lionesses (Xpl-47 & Xpl-59) were located in the lower Mudorib River, but there is no sign of the young lions.

4 Oct 2015. Giraffe Hunt. A complete spoor reconstruction of the giraffe hunt where the “Five Musketeers” captured two adult giraffes was done (see map top left). The pale blue lines show the stalking roles and final positions (blue numbers) of the five male lions before they initiated the chase. Three males circled around to the left whilst two males (Nos. 4 & 5) waited in an ambush position at the base of a narrow gorge (white square). When the lion on the far left (No. 1) initiated the chase, the giraffes (red crosses) ran towards the gorge. Several giraffes escaped to the left of the gorge, but two individuals ran into the trap with three lions hot on their heels. The photo (top right) provides a schematic layout of the actions inside the narrow gorge where the two giraffes were subdued. The black and white photo insert of Xpl-10 attacking a giraffe from an ambush position serves only as an example of how the males may have captured the giraffes. However, it is suspected that the second giraffe was tripped up by the commotions of the lions bringing down the first giraffe and lost its footing over the protruding rocks.

3 Oct 2015. "Musketeers". The adult male lion Xpl-81 “Kebbel” turned around after his encounter with the Hoanib lionesses (see 30 Sep 2015) and then retraced his steps via the Elephant Song back to his normal home range in the Orowau area. The “Five Musketeers” have been feeding continuously on their giraffe kills. They first consumed the carcass of the adult female giraffe until there was only skin and bones left. During the night they started feeding on the male carcass (photos: below).

2 Oct 2015. Two Giraffes. The “Five Musketeers” captured two young adult giraffes (a male & a female) during a cooperative hunt in the Mudorib River. A preliminary spoor reconstruction of the hunt revealed that the five males cleverly coordinated their stalking roles and used the terrain to their advantage. All possible escape routes for the giraffes were blocked off and they became trapped in a narrow gulley. Multiple kills during a single hunt are rare. During this and other Namibian studies, multiple kills have been observed on species like springbok, zebra, wildebeest & buffalo, but never before on giraffe.

1 Oct 2015. Crows. The adult male Xpl-81 “Kebbel” met up with the Hoanib lionesses (Xpl-47 & Xpl-59) and they moved deeper into the mountains (see Hoanib Pride). The “Five Musketeers” presumably killed another giraffe in the Mudorib River. In the meantime the two Floodplain lionesses captured an Oryx on the Hoanib Floodplain. Xpl-69 expended a lot of energy chasing Pied Crows from the carcass (photos: below right).