Aub Pride in the Mountains

Lioness XPL-144 in Omatendeka, April 2024.

A recent spate of decent rains have brought green grass to much of northwest Namibia. This is a boon for farmers and their livestock, as well as prey species such as springbok and mountain zebra. For the desert-adapted lions it can mean lean times, when prey move from prides’ core ranges. While prey species follow the rains to find available grazing, lion movements can be much more conservative, as George Schaller noted in his seminal study of lions in Serengeti. Thus, northwest Namibia’s rainy season can be a period of flux and relative uncertainty for the desert-adapted lions.

Over the past few weeks the Lion Rangers have been closely monitoring certain prides. One pride in the particular, known as the Aub pride, has been a source of interest. In February 2024, the adult female XPL-83, the matriarch of the pride, died of natural causes, leaving the rest of the pride without their rock. The three remaining individuals, the males XPL-136 and XPL-141, and the female XPL-144, have been quite mobile throughout the mountainous areas of Omatendeka and Anabeb conservancies, and the Etendeka Concession. Photographic and video evidence from Lion Rangers’ researchers reveals how these lions are coping with periods of stress.

In the video above, the male XPL-136 can be seen moving through the mountains of Etendeka Concession. One can see the results of prey scattering has taken a toll on him, as evidenced by his lean frame. The Lion Rangers continued monitoring this male as he crossed the mountains into Palmwag Concession, where he encountered large herds of springbok and has since settled down.

This second video shows XPL-136 moving across the mountains of Etendeka in the afternoon sun. Note the strong wind from the southwest.

The other male of the pride, XPL-141, was viewed departing a farming area in Anabeb Conservancy by the Lion Rangers. In contrast to XPL-136, we can see this male has had no trouble navigating the mountains and securing prey for himself. He would meet up with the female XPL-144 soon after this video was taken.

The lioness XPL-144 was found by the Lion Rangers close to the Omirembue waterhole of Omatendeka Conservancy. She was seen scavenging a giraffe carcass which was estimated to have been killed 3-4 days before by the nearby Okavariona pride. During the monitoring we could see how she was able to make a decent meal of the remaining meat as well as the fascia of the giraffe. While the communal areas of northwest Namibia can be a challenging place for any large carnivore, particularly one with energetic requirements like the desert-adapted lions, these animals are wily and tough survivors in this rugged landscape.

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