News - 2016


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30 Jun 2016. Okongwe. Two of the remaining four “Musketeers” (Xpl-91 “Ben & Xpl-93 “Tullamore”) and several Okongwe lionesses were photographed by a camera-trap at Okongwe waterhole (photos below). The other two “Musketeers” (Xpl-90 & Xpl-92) remained in the Gomatum River where they approached the Omiriu village during the night. The lions were successfully deterred using flashing lights and fireworks.

27-29 Jun 2016. Erratic Movements. The monitoring and management of human-lion conflict along the Gomatum River during the past three days have been complicated by the unusual movement and grouping patterns of the lions. The four male lions (“Musketeers”) have separated with two males (Xpl-90 “Polla” and Xpl-92 “Adolf”) returning to the Gomatum River near Tomakas.

25/26 Jun 2016. Mountains. The four male lions (“Musketeers”) entered the mountains south of Tomakas and they have remained close to a spring for the past two days.

24 Jun 2016. To Tomakas. The “Four Musketeers” moved down the Gomatum River towards Tomakas. At 01h30 they were < 1.5 km from the settlement, but they avoided the village and livestock as they skirted along a deep wash to the south.

23 Jun 2016. Return to Giraffe. Against expectations the four male lions descended from the mountains and returned to the remains of their giraffe kill at 02h30 this morning. They did not approach the Omiriu village and livestock. At 04h15 they left the carcass and moved in an easterly direction along the Gomatum valley.

22 Jun 2016. Dogs. The four male lions descended from the narrow gorge in the late afternoon and continued feeding on the remains of their giraffe carcass (photo: top left). Several domestic dogs from the village approached the lions at the carcass (photo: bottom left). The lions did not like the dogs hanging around and barking at them. One of the dogs was lucky to escape when the lions gave chase. At daybreak the “Four Musketeers” had consumed the giraffe carcass and headed for a gorge that leads to Okongwe waterhole. By 10h00 they had crossed over the first set of mountains.

21 Jun 2016. Giraffe. After spending the day in a narrow gorge the “Four Musketeers” moved down to the dry riverbed at 01h00 this morning and continued westwards towards Omiriu village. When 900 metres from the village they started stalking and it was feared that they were targeting the livestock. Moments before flashing lights and fireworks were deployed to scare them off it became apparent that they were actually hunting giraffes that were browsing along the riverbed. At 01h50 the lions killed an adult female giraffe near the water point 800 metres from the settlement. At sunrise the Ministry of Environment & Tourism was informed of the development. The lions were disturbed from the giraffe carcass. They moved away and returned to the narrow gorge where they spent yesterday. The remains of the giraffe carcass were then dragged to the base of the gorge 3.2 km northeast of Omiriu village (photo: bottom right). The livestock owners are commended for actively herding the livestock and ensuring that there are no stragglers moving around at night (photo: bottom left).

20 Jun 2016. Omiriu Village. The “Four Musketeers” spent the day in the mountains. They emerged this morning at 03h30 and continued moving westwards along the Gomatum valley. They reached Omiriu at 05h30, but did not approach the village. At daybreak the lions quickly moved to the safety of the mountains.

19 Jun 2016. Moonlight. Last night at 22h30 the “Four Musketeers” moved out of the Okongwe Mountains following the same route as the previous night (see map 18 Jun 2016). They were observed in the moonlight (photo: top left) as they avoided Tomakas and continued moving westwards along the Gomatum Valley. Fortunately there were no livestock roaming freely and at 03h00 this morning they killed an adult female Oryx 9 km west of Tomakas. Xpl-91 “Ben” is not showing any signs of discomfort from the bullet wound that he sustained a week ago (photos: bottom row).

18 Jun 2016. Setback. At 01h00 the four male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved out of the Okongwe Mountains (see map below) towards Tomakas, but they did not approach the village. Instead, the lions remained close to the edge of the mountains and headed in a westerly direction (map: red line) where several giraffes were browsing along the Gomatum valley. Unfortunately the lions encountered a small group of cattle calves that did not return to the safety of the corrals at Tomakas. The lions killed two calves 2.5 km west of Tomakas. Bright lights and fireworks were used to prevent the lions from approaching Tomakas. The wounded lion, Xpl-91 “Ben” (photos: bottom row), is making a remarkable recovery from the bullet wound to his lower abdomen.

17 Jun 2016. Movements. A summary of the movements of the male lions (the “Musketeers”) over the past six days is presented below. The route starts on 11 Jun 2016 (red line) and ends on 16 Jun 2016 (green line). During this period they actively hunted giraffes that frequent the Gomatum valley. They killed one giraffe and then an Oryx after two of the Okongwe lionesses joined them.

16 Jun 2016. "Four" Musketeers. The remaining four adult male lions (“Musketeers”) were observed during their return to Okongwe waterhole. Xpl-91 “Ben” is recovering from the bullet wound to his lower abdomen (photo: bottom right). He has spent a lot of time licking and keeping the wounds clean. Up until yesterday afternoon there has been no signs of infection. Two of the Okongwe lionesses spent the night at Otjizeka spring, but by morning they started moving back towards Okongwe.

15 Jun 2016. Omiriu Cattle Post. During the night the remaining four male lions (the “Musketeers”) continued moving towards Okongwe and they were south of the waterhole this morning. The Desert Lion Project assisted the Ministry of Environment & Tourism with their management and investigation of the incident. After all the biological data and other information were collected the carcass of Xpl-89 was burnt as a safeguard against the growing illegal trade in lion bones. The wounded lion (Xpl-91 – photo: middle left) appears to be recovering and he will be kept under observation for the next few days.

On the night of 10/11 Jun 2016 the “Five Musketeers” returned to the Gomatum River where they killed a giraffe the previous day and walked past the Omiriu cattle outpost. The lions approached the settlement with large numbers of livestock. One of the lions (presumably Xpl-92 “Adolf” – photos: bottom row) broke into a corral. Fortunately, due to the disturbance caused by the villagers and their dogs, the lions moved away without killing any livestock. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism are still busy with their investigation, but at some point between Omiriu and Otjizeka spring the villagers exercised their legal right to protect their livelihood by shooting at the lions.

Images of the place where the lion breached the corral. Xpl-92 “Adolf” with scars on face.

14 Jun 2016. Xpl-89 "Harry". Finding the carcass of Xpl-89 inside the Salvadora thickets was challenging and required crawling for approximately 30 metres through the thick undergrowth (photos: top row). An autopsy was performed on the carcass and biological samples were collected. The lion died quickly from a single gunshot to the chest. The bullet passed through the heart and lungs. The remaining four male lions were monitored closely and the bullet wound to Xpl-91 “Ben” does not appear to be serious. Two Okongwe lionesses joined the males during the night and after sunrise they were all observed scaling the tall mountains to the south of the Gomatum valley.

13 Jun 2016. Conflict. When the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved past the temporary cattle post (12 km west of Tomakas) two days ago a human-lion conflict incident occurred somewhere between the cattle post and Otjizeka spring (15 km further west). The exact details of the incident are still unclear. Deep inside a Salvadora thicket at Otjizeka spring Xpl-89 “Harry” died of a mortal bullet wound to the chest during the early morning hours on 12 Jun 2016 (photo: bottom right). When the remaining four lions were observed at sunset, two of the males showed signs of injuries. Xpl-92 “Adolf” had a new wound on his right cheek (photo: bottom left) and Xpl-91 “Ben” appeared to have a bullet wound. The photos below suggest that he may have been shot in the lower stomach (photos: top middle & right and bottom middle). It would appear that the bullet passed straight through. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism was informed of the developments. The Purros Conservancy, MET, IRDNC, Okahirongo Elephant Lodge and DLP are all working together to defuse the tense situation.

12 Jun 2016. Okongwe Lioness. The “Five Musketeers” followed the Okongwe lioness (Xpl-70) in a westerly direction along the Gomatum River towards the Otjizeka spring 11 east of Purros. During the night the five males were observed hunting giraffes near the spring. By morning the lionesses had moved on, but the “Musketeers” were inside the thick Salvadora and Tamarisk vegetation at the spring.

11 Jun 2016. Gomatum River. The “Five Musketeers” have returned to the Gomatum River and moved further east. This exposes them to new dangers and an increased risk of human-lion conflict.

10 Jun 2016. Bats of the Namib. An interesting study is currently focussing on the factors influencing the community structure of bats in the Namib Desert. Theresa Laverty (Colorado State University) and Lina Mushbati (University of Namibia) are also looking at variations in echolocation as influenced by habitat and geographic location. Below is a female Angolan wing-gland bat caught in a mist-net at a waterhole near the Hoanib River. The bat weighed 3.5 grams.

9 Jun 2016. More Cattle. After the “Five Musketeers” consumed their giraffe kill they moved into a narrow gorge on the southern edge of the Gomatum valley. From this vantage point they had a clear view of a herd of cattle that grazed along the valley (photos below). After sunset bright flashing lights and fireworks were used to deter the lions from approaching the cattle and the temporary settlement situated 12 km west of Tomakas. The lions were reluctant to traverse the steep gorge and tried several times to move towards the cattle. Regular bursts of flashing lights and fireworks were maintained until 04h00 this morning when the lions scaled the steep mountain slopes and moved out of the valley towards Okongwe waterhole.

8 Jun 2016. Giraffe. During the day the “Five Musketeers” rested in a mopane thicket, but they remained fixated on several groups of giraffes that were browsing along the Gomatum valley (photo: left). After nightfall they continued pursuing the giraffes and eventually captured a sub-adult female on the southern slopes of the valley 10 km east of Tomakas. By sunrise this morning they had consumed the carcass (photo: bottom right).

7 Jun 2016. Musketeers Reunited. A lone female sheep was found after dark several kilometres from Tomakas village. The ewe became separated from the flock when she gave birth to twins. With the help of Rodney Tjavara (see 2/3 Jun 2016) the ewe and her two newborn lambs were loaded in the Land cruiser and transported to the safety of a corral at Tomakas (photos: below left). At 01h30 this morning the two groups of male lions (the “Musketeers”) converged on Tomakas to reunite. The lions avoided the village as bright flashing lights and fireworks were deployed on two occasions. At sunrise the “Five Musketeers” were observed hunting giraffes in the Gomatum River 8 km northeast of Tomakas.

6 Jun 2016. Giribis Plain. The three male lions (Xpl-89, 90 & 91) scouted the Giribis Plains up to 12 km south of Tomakas (photos below). Fortunately they decided to return to the Okomaruru Mountains before reaching the Ganamub Village where large numbers of cattle are grazing on the plains. The rest of the “Musketeers” are still in the Okongwe Mountains although they have moved closer to Tomakas.

5 Jun 2016. Success at Tomakas. At 02h00 this morning the three male lions (Xpl-89, 90 & 91 of the “Five Musketeers”) approached the Tomakas village. The livestock were all inside makeshift protective enclosures and there were no stragglers that the lions could target. When the lions reached a distance of 1.2 km from the village a combination of flashing lights, loud noises and fireworks were deployed (photos: bottom row). The lions responded instantly and moved away from the village. A reconstruction of their tracks later this morning revealed how they stopped, turned around and ran away from the disturbance (photo: top right).

4 Jun 2016. Corral for Tomakas. Camelthorn Safaris took the initiative to transport the materials and assemble a protective enclosure for livestock at Tomakas village (photos below). Fritz Schenk, IRDNC, Into Nature Productions, Wilderness Safaris and TOSCO are thanked for their respective roles in erecting the corral at Tomakas. During the past few weeks the management of livestock has improved substantially as both goats and cattle are herded into makeshift enclosures at night. The new corral will aid this process and will reduce the risk of human-lion conflict.

2/3 Jun 2016. Hero of Tomakas. Rodney Tjavara of the Purros Conservancy (photos: top & bottom left) has been instrumental in the management of human-lion conflict at the Tomakas village during the past three weeks. When three male lions (of the “Five Musketeers”) unexpectedly approached the village at 03h00 on 2 Jun 2016 Rodney reacted quickly and used his skill and training to chase the lions away using fireworks and whistles. The “Five Musketeers” separated on 2 Jun 2016 with three of the males (Xpl-89, Xpl-90 & Xpl-91) moving to Tomakas whilst the remaining two males stayed with the Okongwe lionesses at Okongwe waterhole.

1 Jun 2016. Back to Okongwe. The “Five Musketeers” have remained in the Okongwe Mountains near the Okongwe waterhole. The three small cubs of the Floodplain Pride are still alive and one of the lionesses is currently in oestrous.