The Desert-adapted Lions
The desert-adapted lion population is stable and self-sustaining, though numbers have decreased in recent years due to drought and human-lion conflict. Moving over vast expanses in the arid and semi-arid Kunene Region, the desert-adapted lions demonstrate a keen understanding of their environments – almost as though they maintain mental maps of their home ranges – while subsisting on available prey such as mountain zebra, oryx, giraffe, kudu, and springbok.
In partnership with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, the Lion Rangers monitor the desert-adapted lions across communal lands. An important part of this monitoring is collaring lions to limit human-lion conflict. Once collared, lions in northwest Namibia are assigned unique, sequential alpha-numeric identities. The naming convention traces to work performed in western Etosha during the late 1980s-early 1990s. Since 1999 lions in Kunene collared and monitored by Desert Lion Conservation have received ‘XPL-#’ identifiers, with ‘X’ referring to the Khorixas district and ‘PL’ referring to lions’ scientific name of Panthera leo. Lions receiving XPL identifiers primarily originate from the furthest western part of the area. Since 2011, other identifiers have been added. Lions collared by the Namibian Lion Trust, receive ‘NPL-#’ identifiers; ‘N’ designating the NLT research area centered within Ehi-rovipuka and ǂKhoadi-ǁHoas conservancies. Since 2021, lions marked by MEFT and the Ombonde Research Team, whose work centers around the Ombonde river catchment have received ‘OPL-#’ identifiers; ‘O’ designating the Ombonde area. These identifiers indicate where lions are collared and thought to originate, though their primary use is to provide individuals with a unique identity for communication among research and management partners.
Each of the known non-cub desert-adapted lions is pictured below. We are consistently updating this roster as new information becomes available.
The Omukutu pride primarily moves in the core wildlife areas of Omatendeka and Anabeb conservancies, where they specialize in hunting giraffe. Moving throughout the Khowarib/Ombonde river areas, and the mountainous area west of Klein Serengeti in Omatendeka, the pride is highly-mobile, frequently separating and re-forming. All six individuals were collared with experimental GPS/satellite collars in partnership with the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour in May 2023. They are primarily monitored by Lion Rangers from Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers.
Three adult females and one male compose the Okomimunu pride. They primarily reside in the farming areas of Anabeb Conservancy, though will move into the core wildlife area of Omatendeka. Though they spatially overlap with the Southern Anabeb pride the prides are distinct. Though staying near farms, they are not known to cause human-lion conflict. They are currently known to have three small cubs, birthed by XPL-139 but being raised by the pride together. The pride is primarily monitored by the Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers.
Southern Anabeb Pride
The Southern Anabeb pride is composed of an adult female and three subadult males, one of whom is collared. They primarily reside in southeastern Anabeb and western Omatendeka conservancies, coming into frequent, peaceful, contact with the Okomimunu pride – though they are considered separate. They are primarily monitored by the Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers.
Lower Hoanib Pride
The lioness XPL-114 has been solitary since the death of the lioness XPL-69 and is known to have lost two cubs in mid-2022. She primarily keeps to the lower reaches of the Hoanib riverbed, where she is frequently seen by tourist vehicles. She is primarily monitored by Desert Lion Conservation, MEFT-Sesfontein, and the Sesfontein Lion Rangers.
The Hoanib pride consists of two females and a non-dispersed subadult male. They primarily inhabit the Hoanib and Ganamub riverbed areas, also moving to further northwards. Given his age XPL-143 is likely to disperse from the pride in 2024-5. They are primarily monitored by the Sesfontein Conservancy Lion Rangers.
Two lionesses compose the Floodplain pride. Their movements are primarily confined to the lower reaches of the Hoanib and Hoaruseb rivers. XPL-106 gave birth to three cubs mid-2022, two females and one male. One female survives. They are primarily monitored by Desert Lion Conservation and the Puros Conservancy Lion Rangers.
The lioness XPL-150 is solitary. Her movements are confined to the Puros Conservancy, primarily spanning from the Okongue waterhole to the Hoaruseb riverbed area. She is primarily monitored by Desert Lion Conservation and the Puros Conservancy Lion Rangers.
The Aub pride is composed of two females, a mother and daughter, and two related males. They primarily inhabit the Palmwag Concession and southern reaches of Anabeb Conservancy – though the males will often spend days apart from the females. Previously another female was part of the group – she was killed following human-lion conflict in Anabeb Conservancy in April 2023. The pride is primarily monitored by the Anabeb Conservancy Lion Rangers.
Two adult females and one non-dispersed subadult male form the Uniab pride. A third adult female was killed from apparent poisoning in Torra Conservancy in July 2023. The pride will spaitally overlap with the Etendeka and Aub prides, but are considered separate. They primarily inhabit the Palmwag Concession, northern Torra Conservancy, and western ǂKhoadi-ǁHöas in the Klip River area. This group was known to cause human-lion conflict incidents in late-2022. The result being increased deployment of the Lion Rangers and Early-Warning System in their areas. They are primarily monitored by the Torra Conservancy Lion Rangers and MEFT-Sesfontein.
Three adult females compose the Etendeka Pride. They primarily reside in southern Etendeka Concession, northern Torra Conservancy, and western ǂKhoadi-ǁHôas Conservancy in the Klip River area. They are currently rearing four cubs from two litters, both likely sired by XPL-107 (deceased). Though staying close to farms they are not known to cause human-lion conflict. The pride is primarily monitored by the Torra Conservancy and Doro !Nawas Conservancy Lion Rangers.
XPL-108 is a solitary adult female formerly associated with the adult females XPL-97 and XPL-105, the last of whom died in August 2022. She primarily inhabits the Skeleton Coast Park from the Uniab mouth to the lower Huab in western Torra Conservancy, and is known to have spent substantial time near Torra Bay where she forages on marine life. She is not known to cause human-lion conflict and is primarily monitored by Desert Lion Conservation.
The Okavariona Pride is composed of three adult females and two adult males. The pride primarily moves within the Omatendeka Conservancy core wildlife area as well as the adjacent mountains in Etendeka Concession. The two males, OPL-7 and OPL-8, are known to have dispersed from Hobatere Concession around March 2022. There is no evidence they will return to Hobatere and are now considered part of the Okavariona Pride. The group occasionally associates with OPL-18, though are considered separate. They are not known to cause human-lion conflict. They are primarily monitored by the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, ǂKhoadi-ǁHôas, and Omatendeka conservancies.
OPL-18 is a solitary adult female who occasionally associates with the Okavariona Pride. She primarily inhabits the mountainous area of Omatendeka Conservancy, moving into neighboring areas of Ehi-rovipuka Conservancy. She is not known to cause human-lion conflict and is primarily monitored by the Lion Rangers from Ehi-rovipuka, ǂKhoadi-ǁHôas, Orupupa, and Omatendeka conservancies.