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.

Male moving through the Huab landscape.

Two groups of lions are currently residing in the area. The XPL-135 group, which was collared just last month, is still testing their hunting abilities but is having success. And the XPL-75 group, currently consists of two, sometimes three, ‘sisters’ who are older and have been monitored by Desert Lion Conservation in the Huab area as far back as 2012.

XPL-75 and her ‘sister’

Both groups were approached carefully by closed-top vehicles and monitored as to their body condition. This can be difficult to assess, as desert-adapted lion can go multiple days without eating and to all evidence look quite skinny. However, as has been shown in northwest Namibia and other areas, lions will often gorge themselves on available food, rest for a day or two, and resume moving for numerous days before eating again. In particular, in northwest Namibia where prey can be particularly scarce at certain times of year, lions may cover vast areas before eating again.

Desert-adapted lions resting during the midday heat.

A quick examination of the Huab riverbed revealed low levels of available prey, but nevertheless the presence of springbok, oryx, kudu, steenbok, and even a number of elephants.

Kudu in the Huab riverbed.

The Lion Rangers, Rapid Response Teams, and Ministry staff will continue monitoring the area and communicating lion movements to the local communities. The conservancies of Torra and Doro !Nawas are particularly thanked for their assistance.

Below is a video of the XPL-135 group, initially displaced by the arrival of a second Lion Ranger vehicle, they quickly returned to relaxed and resting, as seen above.

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