News - 2016


May

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29/30 May 2016. Back to Okongwe. The five male lions (the “Musketeers”) finally left the Tomakas / Okomaruru area and returned to the Okongwe waterhole where they joined the Okongwe lionesses. The female cheetah (Xaj-2) was observed north of the Hoanib River with her two small cubs.

27/28 May 2016. Tomakas Movements. The remainder of the giraffe carcass was moved away from the Tomakas village. The “Five Musketeers” are continuing with their perilous movement pattern of crossing back and forth between the Okongwe to the Okomaruru Mountains via the Tomakas village. The risk of a serious human-lion conflict incident is looming if the situation continues.

25/26 May 2016. Return to Tomakas. The rear diff of the Land Cruiser arrived in Swakopmund at 17h00 on the 25th May 2016. Koos Theron and Swakop Body Works worked until 21h00 to fit the diff and get the vehicle mobile (photos: top row). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Koos Theron, Bernd Kebbel and Manfred Laborn for their support. Tomakas was reached last night after a 14-hour drive. The five male lions (the “Musleteers”) killed an adult male giraffe 1.5 km east of the village. The Tomakas community kept their livestock inside protective enclosures during the night and the lions returned to the Okomaruru hills after consuming the remainder of the carcass (photos: bottom row).

24 May 2016. Road Show Video. Into Nature Productions produced a short video on the Road Show that was held in July 2015. The video clip can be viewed at the following link: “Road Show Video”.

23 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs-2. Whilst the rear diff of the Land Cruiser is being repaired in Windhoek the opportunity was used to repair and service numerous items on the research vehicle, such as the rotating radio telemetry antenna, the rear fuel tank, etc.

21 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs. The rear diff of the research vehicle was removed at Swakop Body Works and sent to Windhoek for repairs. The damaged rear fuel tank was also removed and repaired.

20 May 2016. Musketeers avoid Tomakas. During the night the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved eastwards from the Okongwe Mountains onto the Giribis plains (see map below). Their movements suggest that they may have skirted around Tomakas in order to get to the Okomaruru area that they have been favouring for the past few weeks. The female cheetah (Xaj-2) returned to the lower Hoanib River with her two small cubs and Wilderness Safaris observed them on several occasions (photos: Liberty Eiseb).

19 May 2016. Vehicle Repairs. Driving the crippled research vehicle to Swakopmund was a time consuming affair as it became bogged-down in soft sand on numerous occasions due to soft sand deposited by the recent southwesterly winds. The “Five Musketeers” have not returned to Tomakas. The Hoanib lioness (Xpl-59) have returned yet again to the spot where her sister (Xpl-47 “Bianca”) was killed during a human-lion conflict incident 7 months ago (see Week 2 of Nov 2015).

16/17 May 2016. Okomaruru to Okongwe. The “Five Musketeers” approached the Tomakas area at 22h00 on 16 May 2016 on their way to the Okongwe Mountains. All the livestock were herded inside a protective enclosure and the lions were deterred from approaching the village with lights and fireworks. At 06h00 the lions circumvented the area and entered the Okongwe Mountains where they remained for the following night. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Purros Lion Rangers are monitoring the situation whilst the Desert Lion vehicle will be repaired in Swakopmund during the following few days.

15 May 2016. Okomaruru. The Tomakas community was remarkably tolerant after the lions killed a cow near their village last night. The Headman, Japie Uraravi (photo: bottom far left), was appreciative of the efforts of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, IRDNC and the Desert Lion Project. Throughout the night all the parties involved (including members of Tomakas) contributed to keeping the lions from approaching the livestock around the settlement. At 05h30 this morning the five male lions moved to Okomaruru spring in the mountains 7 km southeast of Tomakas.

14 May 2016. Failure at 04:00. The “Five Musketeers” were located at a spring in the mountains southeast of Tomakas. They were in good condition and had eaten recently. At 04h00 this morning the lions sneaked past the research vehicle and killed a cow close to the Tomakas village. The radio telemetry receivers failed to detect the VHF signals of their collars. For an unknown reason the frequencies of the collars shifted during the cold morning hours. Once corrected the lions were located and chased away from the village and into the mountains towards Okongwe. Allowing the lions to approach the village and kill a cow is a major setback to the conservation efforts.

13 May 2016. Guarding Tomakas. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism, the Purros Lion Rangers, IRDNC & the DLP teamed-up to monitor the situation at Tomakas village. During the night the five male lions (“Musketeers”) moved to a spring in the mountains 9 km southeast of Tomakas (map below).

12 May 2016. Kamanjab to Tomakas. The two-day workshop towards developing a Northwest Lion Management Plan held in Kamanjab was a success. The meeting was chaired by Kenneth /Uiseb of the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (photo: below left) and he is commended for skilfully facilitating difficult and sometimes heated discussions. The problem situation at Tomakas was discussed in detail. During the return trip to Tomakas the field vehicle had two flat tires and a rock damaged the fuel line.

10/11 May 2016. Tomakas to Kamanjab. The Okongwe lionesses and the “Five Musketeers” were displaced from the Tomakas village using sound playbacks and fireworks. The lions moved into the mountains towards Okongwe and they were 12 km southwest of Tomakas by sunrise. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism called a meeting in Kamajab to discuss the conservation of lions in the Kunene region and to develop a management plan to address human-lion conflict (photo below). The Desert Lion Project would like to thank Klaus Schubert, Wilderness Safaris and P de Wet for assisting with the transport and delivering of the supply of fireworks to Hoanib Camp.

9 May 2016. Heading for Tomakas. Hopes of reaching Tomakas and the “Five Musketeers” by nightfall were curbed because a supply of fireworks that were ordered from Windhoek two weeks ago has gone astray. In addition, along the way the field vehicle became stuck in soft sand on several occasions due to the broken rear axel.

8 May 2016. Finish. The last stage (10 km) of the 4 Deserts Race was completed in dramatic fashion at Torra Bay (photos below). The event was a great success with very little impact on the environment. The 4 Deserts Race Management, NWR and the Namibian support team should be commended for executing a flawless operation under difficult environmental conditions that provided valuable exposure to the Skeleton Coast Park and to Namibia. Efforts have now been turned to the “Five Musketeers” that are in danger of attacking livestock at Tomakas.

7 May 2016. Day 5/6. The demanding 77 km route of the fifth stage of the 4 Deserts Race was completed without incident. This was mainly due to the efficiency of the 4 Deserts Management and their Namibian support team. The last competitors arrived at the Torra Bay Camp at 11h45 (see comments & photos below).

Athletes traversing the Uniab dunes. Athletes passing by a checkpoint at 21h00. Checkpoint 4 offered a valued rest stop.
The Finish line at 03h30 this morning. Arrival of a competitor on the 24-hour mark Applauded arrival of last athletes at 27h 43m

6 May 2016. Day 5. The penultimate stage of the 4 Deserts Race takes the athletes down the Uniab River to the Uniab Delta, where the probability of encountering lions is highest, and then along the coastline to Torra Bay. The participants have two days to complete the gruelling 77.0 km and it is expected that many will run throughout the night. Efforts are in place to ensure the safety of the athletes. In the meantime the “Five Musketeers” followed the Okongwe lionesses back to the livestock at Tomakas village. With the help of Wilderness Safaris (Clement Lawrence) efforts were made last night to deter the lions from approaching the livestock grazing around Tomakas. The use of firecrackers and lights appeared to have worked as the lions moved into the hills to the southeast of Tomakas.

5 May 2016. Day 4. On the fourth day of the 4 Deserts Race the athletes started from the Springbokwasser Camp (photo: top) and followed the Old German Road for 41.0 km to the Uniab River. The route took them across vast basalt plains and past the spot where the Dorob Male (Xpl-77) killed a Hartmann’s zebra on 5 Jun 2013 (photo: bottom right).

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4 May 2016. Day 3. The third stage of the 4 Deserts Race took the athletes along the Koigab River to Ugib spring (photo: 2nd row left) and then across the basalt plains to Springbokwasser (42.0 km). The area was scanned intensively, but there were no fresh signs of lion movements. The “Five Musketeers” have followed the Okongwe lioness (Xpl-104) and moved closer to Tomakas during the early morning hours.

3 May 2016. Day 2. Stage 2 of the 4 Desert Race (42.0 km) took the athletes along the coastline past a large seal colony to an old shipwreck and then across the gravel plains to the Koigab River at the main coastal road. The participants observed several brown hyaenas, including a hyaena carrying part of a seal carcass (photo: bottom right). During the night brown hyaenas damaged several plastic water bottles that were stored at the checkpoints (e.g. photo: bottom left). The “Five Musketeers” are still in the Okongwe Mountains.

2 May 2016. Day 1. The first day of the 4 Deserts Race was a success as 215 athletes from 43 countries started from the Huab Lagoon on a 37.3 km course that took them past an old oilrig and the abandoned Toscanini diamond mine. During the next 5 days they will run 42, 42, 41, 77 & 10 km per day respectively towards the total of 249.3 km of the Race.

1 May 2016. Safety. The areas surrounding the course of the 4 Deserts Race are being scanned continuously for signs of lion movements. There are approximately 25 lions (8 with radio collars) from four prides/groups that occasionally utilise the area around the 750 km course (photo below: the Obab Pride on 23 Mar 2016). The chances of lions moving through this area during the next seven days are slim, but precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the athletes.