Monitoring and Collaring

Desert-adapted lioness, OPL-4, Ombonde Research Area.

An important part of continuous monitoring of the desert-adapted lions is ensuring GPS/satellite collars stay up to date. Collars become damaged and batteries run low, necessitating upkeep and replacement. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and with support from GEF and WWF-Namibia, the Lion Rangers have been actively re-collaring lions around the Ombonde Research Area over the past week. The purpose of these activities are both to continue ongoing research of the desert-adapted lions, as well as ensuring proactive management of human-lion conflict, which remains the number one cause of mortality for non-cub lions in northwest Namibia.

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October Collaring in Ombonde

Omatendeka Lion Ranger, Kandavii Nguezeeta, tracking lions in the Ombonde Research Area, in preparation for collaring, October 2021.

Over the past week, the Lion Rangers have been partnering with Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) game capture and veterinary staff to collar lions in the Ombonde Research Area. Following the recent poisoning of lions nearby here, including one male lion collared in the area in May, continuing to monitor lion movements in the area is considered a high priority.

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Human-Lion Conflict, Poisoning

Desert-adapted lions, following collaring in Ombonde Research Area, May 2021.

In the late afternoon hours of 4 October, the Lion Rangers were informed by our colleagues with the Desert Lion Conservation Trust, that one of our research animals’ – OPL-1 – collar was no longer responding. The collar had not communicated satellite information for more than two days and it was feared something had happened to this male. While it is not uncommon for collars to not transmit GPS points for a day – perhaps the lion is under a tree, or resting against a cliff face – two days with no transmitted information is cause for alarm.

(Warning: link contains upsetting images.)

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Rain!!!

Over the past months the rainy season has begun getting underway in Etosha National Park and further east. However, it had not made it to the Lion Rangers’ conservancies. That all changed in Ehi-rovipuka, Omatendeka, and Orupupa this past week. While performing foot-based patrol in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), some of the Lion Rangers got separated from their camps near Palmfontein when the rivers began running.

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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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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.

Field Set-Up Along the Escarpment

During the past week some of the Lion Rangers, led by Sr. Lion Ranger Phineas Kasaona, performed reconnaissance work within the Anabeb, Ehirovipuka, and Omatendeka conservancies along the escarpment. These highland areas have been spared some of the worst effects of drought and in certain locations, including around the Otjomonbonde and Okahavariona waterholes, game was still visible; albeit in limited numbers. Some highlights included a group of five eland spotted in the southern Omatendeka conservancy, herds of springbok near Otjihapa, some intensive foot-based lion tracking, and cool temperatures at night. Special thanks to the ladies of Otjizeka for assisting us while performing some needed vehicle repairs.

The primary purpose of the visit was logistics planning for 2020-2021. For years a subpopulation of lions has inhabited the area but without comprehensive population monitoring taking place. As was mentioned in an earlier update, the Lion Rangers, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center, are taking charge of monitoring lions in the area beginning early next year. Watch this space for exciting news about the project as well as updates from the field.

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