A Difficult Week

XPL-75 in January 2021.

The desert-adapted lions of northwest Namibia inhabit arid and semiarid environments dissimilar to lions in other parts of Africa. This leads to a variety of interesting behaviors, such as massive home ranges and groups specializing in hunting giraffe in certain areas. However, life on the edge of the northern Namib desert also presents difficult challenges. Drought among them. With rains falling further east in recent weeks much of the desert-adapted lions’ home ranges have been largely emptied of available prey. This heightens the possibility that lions will turn to livestock and come into conflict with area farmers. It also means that the lions can suffer to find food.

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Update from Huab

Desert-adapted lions near the Huab.

In recent weeks different groups of desert-adapted lions have moved close to two different settlement areas. Along the banks of the Huab riverbed a group of three subadult females and one male have been moving west of the village of De Riet. This group was recently collared in the same area.

In Puros Conservancy a pair of females has been moving up and down the Hoaruseb riverbed, even once coming into conflict with the community’s cattle, which are grazing in the riverbed because grass is not available elsewhere. The IRDNC Rapid Response teams have been working with the Puros Lion Rangers under the direction of Dr. Stander of Desert Lion Conservation to address this challenge. Updates on this group’s movements have been provided by Desert Lion Conservation throughout the month of January.

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Checking In on the Huab Lions

Group of desert-adapted lions near the Huab riverbed.

Rainfall further east is bringing prey further up the Huab riverbed, towards the settlements of De Riet in Torra Conservancy and Rennevoote along the Torra-Doro !Nawas Conservancy border. Over the past week the Lion Rangers and IRDNC Rapid Response Teams have been working alongside staff from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to keeps tabs on lions in the area. With the low density of prey there was some concern that the lions may be struggling to find food. However, extensive video and photographic evidence was reviewed and leading scientists and field practitioners agreed the lions are doing well considering the season and relative lack of rainfall, and thus prey.

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Lion Ranger Foot Patrol in Ombonde

Jendery Tsaneb and the Lion Rangers overlooking the Ombonde research area.

During the holidays the Lion Rangers were hard at work. While assisting with the construction of the new Ombonde Research and Monitoring Camp, the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa conservancies rotated through intensive foot-based patrols spanning the central Ombonde catchment – the heart of our monitoring project in the area.

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New Ombonde Research and Monitoring Camp

Finished look at the new ORMC.

Throughout December and early January, the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa conservancies joined staff from Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, as well as volunteers from each conservancy to begin – and complete! – construction of the Lion Rangers new home in the Ombonde catchment area. The Ombonde Research and Monitoring Camp (ORMC) will be the new field base for the Lion Rangers and other conservancy field staff working in the Ombonde area.

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Tracking and Collaring in the Huab

Aba-Huab Pride

This past week the Lion Rangers, accompanied by Dr. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation, performed an intensive tracking of an as of yet uncollared group of lions near the Huab River. This group, descended from lions further south in the Ugab River, has been known in the area, though they have not been the cause of human-lion conflict. Nevertheless, their proximity to farmers in the area of De Riet has been some cause for concern.

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Cubs

Check out the first footage of a new group of cubs in the Ombonde catchment study area. These cubs were seen with a pride male and three adult lionesses just following the recent full moon. The Lion Rangers will be monitoring this group closely over the coming years to learn more about the group’s dynamics and movements as the cubs grow and gain experience in the mountainous area.

Cubs and male lion.

Reconnaissance in the Mountains

View of the Ombonde river catchment study area.

This past week Dr. John Heydinger and Lion Ranger Field Assistant Jendery Tsaneb recommenced their foot-based exploration of the mountainous terrain surrounding the Ombonde river catchment. In partnership with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, the University of Minnesota Lion Center is pioneering a new lion monitoring and conservation project in the area.

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