Tracking down lions, using radio telemetry, and observing them in the field is a fundamental part of the research project. The field observations and monitoring of individual lions form the basis of studying the ecology of the population. Locating radio-collared lions in the 55,000 sqr km of mountains and desert is a daunting task. Lions live in an area of up to 25,000 sqr km and can cover more that 50 km in one night.

New field vehicle!!!


The dream of a new field vehicle for the Desert Lion Project, and retirement for "Hagar" the old and faithful Hilux, has come true. Through the considerable efforts of the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa (Adolf Huester in particular) and Chris Weaver of WWF-LIFE, the necessary funds were secured and a suitable Toyota Land Cruiser were purchased. Under the expert guidance of the LCCSA members, the vehicle was serviced and equipped with all the necessary accessories. See full report below. A photographic journal of the vehicle can be viewed under Cruiser.

How did it come about that the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa sponsored the vehicle?

In November 2007 one of the LCCSA members, Martin Cleminshaw, posted a link to the Desert Lion website on their discussion forum. But the idea of supporting the Desert Lion Project was born after a group of LCCSA members (David van Breda, Carel Oberholzer, LJ du Toit, Hennie Kotze, and Riaan Vlok, to mention a few) met me in the Hoanib River during December 2007. They posted photographs on the LCCSA forum and mentioned that my current vehicle is in desperate need of replacement.

It was the most fortuitous of encounters. I noticed the party of vehicles driving towards me and actually tried to hide from them, because I had bloody carcass (lion bait) hanging from the side of the Hilux. But they had already spotted me. We had a brief interaction that eventually led to the funding of the Land Cruiser.

On 11 January 2008 Adolf Huester contacted me by email and explained that LCCSA would like to sponsor a new vehicle for the Desert Lion Project. A month later Chris Weaver, from WWF-Life, approached me with an offer of US$ 35,000 towards a new field vehicle. Since I have already made a commitment to the funding offer from LCCSA, I informed Adolf of the offer from WWF-Life. LCCSA and WWF-Life agreed to pool their funds towards a good vehicle with all the necessary accessories and equipment. Desert Lion Conservation then entered into a grant agreement with WWF-Life, with match funding from LCCSA.

On 16 February 2008 Adolf started an active fundraising campaign on behalf of the LCCSA. The response from the Club’s members was nothing short of remarkable. In an email to me Adolf wrote: “The following vibe that went through that club to make this happen was out of this world! We had online auctions, auctions at different venues and business challenges of unbelievable value! The money came in fast and furious! End of March 2008 we have achieved our set target (R 140 000.00) and started to look for a vehicle.”

At end of April 2008, after numerous discussions between Adolf and myself, LCCSA found the ideal vehicle for the project: a 2004 Land Cruiser 79, Double cab, 4.5 EFI. The Land Cruiser then went through a comprehensive service and face-lift, and various members of the Club, which are experts in different aspects of Land Cruisers, worked on the vehicle. A list of modifications include: ARB bulbar bumper with M10 winch, ARB Lockers front & rear, IEF rear bumper with two spare wheels, differential and steering guard, extra 180l petrol tank, 80l water tank, 6 new Toyota GX rims and 6 Cooper tires, and various other accessories.

By mid-June 2008 the Land Cruiser was ready. The LCCSA invited me to attend hand-over ceremonies in Cape Town (20 June) and Gauteng (21 June), and sponsored my flights and accommodation. It was an honour for me to meet the members and to deliver presentations on the Desert Lion Project at the two events. The official hand-over of the vehicle took place in Gauteng. I was speechless when I first saw the Land Cruiser – it is a magnificent vehicle. The efforts and attention to detail that went into the modifications and improvements are astonishing. The impact that this vehicle will have on the Lion Project is huge. It is ideally suited and so well equipped that it will greatly improve my ability to study and conserve lions in the harsh desert terrain. I am most grateful to LCCSA, WWF-Life and everyone that contributed (see attached list - in no particular order).


R 269,500 estimated (US$ 35,000)


R 140,000

4x4 Community Forum Members

R 10,000

Toyota SA

R 15,000

Johann Meyer

Comprehensive service of the vehicle

Johann Viljoen

Tires, wheel alignment, repairs & organising the hand-over ceremony in Cape Town

Theo Schmidt & Eden Guest House

Accommodation and transport for P Stander in Cape Town

Nick Walker


Jos Hartog


Ockert van Schalkwyk

Supplying a new fridge for the vehicle

Trevor Roux

Co-ordinating the fundraising auctions

Hennie Kotze

Organising the hand-over ceremony in Gauteng & driving the vehicle to Namibia

Baillies Offroad

Long Ranger fuel tank & electrics

4x4 Megaworld

Fitting the ARB Lockers, OME suspension & bullbar at cost

Outback Extreme

Supplying the double rear wheel carrier free of charge

Huester Machine Tool Co.

Fitment and modifications

Images from the ceremonies in Cape Town and Gauteng (photos: Cape Town by Marie; Gauteng by Johan Barkenhuizen)

The venue in Cape Town
Thanking of Johann Viljoen for the event
Theo Schmidt & Chantelle
Jonathan Tee & Johann Viljoen with the LCCSA emblem
Jos Hartog, Karen and Martin Cleminshaw
Displaying the LCCSA emblem
Addressing the LCCSA members in Gauteng
Adolf Huester presenting the vehicle
Receiving the keys from Adolf Huester

Posted on 21 May 2008

On 11 Jan 2008 the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa (LCCSA) approached me with an offer to raise funds for a new project vehicle. Mr Adolf Huester coordinated communications and by mid-February members of LCCSA started donating funds towards the vehicle. The response from the LCCSA members has been extraordinary, and I wish to acknowledge their enthusiasm and interest in the Desert Lion Project.

On 11 Feb 2008 Chris Weaver, from the WWF LIFE Programme in Namibia, informed me that they have secured US$ 35,000 towards a new field vehicle. WWF and LCCSA agreed to pool their funds towards a suitable and well-equipped vehicle that will be donated to Desert Lion Conservation, under a 3-year WWF grant agreement. In the mean time LCCSA also secured support from Toyota SA and several other organisations.

Vehicle donated by Warden of Skeleton Coast Park
John and Barbara Patterson, based at Mowe Bay, donated their private Toyota Hilux and large collection of spare parts to the Desert Lion Project. This vehicle is old and weathered and does not replace the Project's Hilux. But it is the same model and will be used as spare parts to keep the Hilux running and in the field. The collection of additional spare parts that came with the vehicle includes the following: 18R engine, gearbox, transfer case, differentials, steering unit, petrol tanks, etc.

Hagar the Hilux (update: 17 Jan 2008)
The field vehicle for the Desert Lion Project is a 1983 Toyota Hilux. As a young ranger, working in Etosha, I saved money for a deposit on a new Hilux. In May 1983 I bought the vehicle for N$ 9,000. The Hilux has a colourful history of working in a wide range of conservation projects in Namibia for 24 years. It has logged over 500,000 km, and although it rolled during an aerial survey in the Caprivi, it has not had any major repairs, and is still mechanically sound. After 24 years of hard field work the Hilux is now showing signs of retirement.

Brand new! May 1983 - Okaukuejo, Etosha NP
1983 - West Caprivi, Namibia
1984 - Khan River, Namibia
1984 - Hoanib River, Namibia
1985 - Kafue River, Zambia
1985 - Lake Tanganyika, Zambia
1985 - North Luangwa, Zambia
1985 - Chewore, Zimbabwe
1986 - Etosha National Park, Namibia
1986 - Skeleton Coast Park, Namibia
1987 - Etosha National Park
1988 - Etosha National Park

1989 - Sengwa, Zimbabwe

1991 - Kaudom Game Park, Namibia

1993 - Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Namibia

1994 - Etosha National Park
1995 - Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Namibia
1995 - Xai Xai, Mozambique
1995 - Accident during aerial survey near Mangetti Dune, Namibia
2001 - Hobatere Lodge, Namibia
2005 - Khumib River, Skeleton Coast Park
2006 - Cape Frea, Skeleton Coast Park
2007 - Ugab River, Skeleton Coast Park
2007 - Bogged down in the Ugab River
2007 - Samanab River, Skeleton Coast Park
2007 - Observing lions at night, Skeleton Coast

Video clip: (00'18 / 1Mb)

Down QuickTime to view video.

The Miracle Maule

Studying wildlife, and especially lions, in arid and mountainous environments is a daunting task, even for the most seasoned and experienced conservationists. Scientists have for many years, grappled to overcome the constraints of studying animals under these conditions. Among the many innovative techniques developed, the use of a light aircraft and radio telemetry technology has made the biggest contribution. This study is, not surprisingly, entirely dependant on an aircraft. But not any light aircraft will do. It has to be a "bush plane". One that can land on rough strips, land and take-off from short strips, and one that has enough power to negotiate mountains and strong winds. A tail-wheel configuration Maule is probably the most ideal light aircraft for the job. Flip Stander owns a Maule (M6-235C) that is based at Wereldsend. The aircraft, equipped with a 235 Hp Lycoming engine, is powerful and has short take-off and landing requirements. It is suitably equipment and ideal for wildlife survey, research and monitoring.

Video clip (00'22 / 632Kb)

View from large observation windows
Observation window
GIS & GPS navigation
Live GIS display
Radar Altimeter

Maule M6-235C, N5649T, model 1982, 800 hrs Total Time
1) Large observer windows & outstanding visibility from all 4 seats.
2) Four-point intercom system with headsets.
3) A state of the art radio-tracking system with location and directional antennae, linked to the intercom system.
4) GIS & GPS navigation - mounted iPAQ computer with Bluetooth GPS - displays 1:250,000 colour moving maps & allows accurate navigation along transects, touch-screen recording of waypoints & tracklogs.
5) Radar Altimeter (King KRA-10A) - allows accurate recording of height above ground level, essential for sample surveys.
6) Fuel Flow System (JPI-FS450) - accurate monitoring of fuel reserves and hence improved safety.
7) Large wheels (Tundra tires) - can operate from rough strips.

The versatility, power, and capability of the Maule comes to the fore in the challenging condition of the mountainous Kunene. Most impressive is the plane’s ability to land & take off in very short distances, and its’ ruggedness to land on rough and uneven surfaces. With the correct weight & balance, the Maule can land & take off in 50 to 70 metres. In practical terms, we can land almost anywhere in the study area. This ability drastically reduce our driving and commuting time from the nearest airstrip, to the lions we need to monitor.