Population Survey Week 1: Coast and Mountains

Desert-adapted lioness, XPL-150, photographed by Team 1.

The Lion Rangers and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism staff, in partnership with the Namibia Lion Trust and IRDNC are completing the first week of the Northwest Lion Population Survey. Focusing on the core wildlife areas of the Puros Conservancy, this first week emphasizes some of the most remote areas lions are known to frequent in Kunene. Its not an easy way to start, with so much mountainous territory to cover, but it is important that desert-adapted lion landscape is covered comprehensively.

Planning the Northwest Lion Population Survey in Puros.

Hoaruseb to the Sea

Lioness near the Hoaruseb mouth.

For the first week Teams 1 and 3, overseen by MEFT Large Carnivore Coordinator and the survey’s manager, Uakendisa Muzuma, are focusing on finding all known lions in the landscape surrounding the Hoaruseb river. Muzuma’s team tracked and successfully photographed the coastal-roaming lions known as XPL-106 and XPL-109, along with their cubs near the mouth of the Hoaruseb. They also found and photographed the lioness XPL-150.

The Mountains of Okongwe

Team 2 examining a lion skeleton in the mountains near Okongwe.

Team 2, led by Dr. John Heydinger, has been tasked with traversing the rugged mountains of Puros, surrounding the Okongwe waterhole. This area is known to have been frequented by lions in years’ past, but with recent drought conditions most prey species have left the area; it is suspected that the lions have followed. Though Team 2 intensively surveyed the area throughout the week – covering more than 100 km on foot and 300 km by vehicle, no recent lion tracks were discovered. There was unmistakable evidence that lions move through the area, including a newly discovered lion skeleton, estimated to have died at least a year before in a mountain wash.

Team 2 on a chilly morning in the mountains.

Conflict Areas of Tomakas and Otjikandivirongo

Team 4 at a waterhole in Otjikandivirongo.

Over the past few years, lions have been moving through the farming areas of Tomakas and Otjikandivirongo. Team 4 spent the first week focused on the mountains and Gomatum river washes. The team spent extensive time trekking into the mountains, focusing on checking every known spring and accessible waterpoint, both for fresh lion tracks and for game movements. An important part of this team’s work was speaking with farmers in the area concerning recent lion sightings, and information sharing about the purposes of the Northwest Lion Survey and how it will help reduce human-lion conflict and support farmers.

Tracking near Tomakas.
Lioness in the Hoaruseb.
Team Leaders (from left) Uakendisa Muzuma, Allu Uraravi, Linus Mbomboro, and Amon Uraravi, creating week-by-week workplan for Northwest Lion Population Survey, Puros Conservancy office.

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