Over the past five days the Lion Rangers and program partners have been intensively monitoring four separate groups in Torra Conservancy and Ombonde research area.
On Friday, the group of XPL-105, composed of three adult females, killed an ostrich, fewer than 100m south of the road to Torra Bay – right along one of our team’s morning running routes! The three females easily dispatched the ostrich and had little problem keeping the pied crows and lappet-faced vultures at bay. Follow-up tracking the next day enabled us to recreate how the ostrich was stalked in a riverbed, then taken down and dragged under a nearby tree. After feeding on the carcass into the evening the three females moved into the Springbok River, coming within 6km of Driefontein farm. However, as one Driefontein farmer noted, “I know these lions. They are disciplined and do not cause problems.”
Later that same day the Lion Rangers responded to a concern that a group of four subadults, were coming close to the village De Riet. The Group of Four was found downriver approximately 4km of De Riet, hiding deep in a salvadora bush from heavy late-afternoon winds coming inland from Skeleton Coast. The group took a certain liking to our research vehicle, with XPL-135 coming quite close. The group, which has been moving between the Huab and Ugab riverbeds, has been hunting springbok and recently fed on a dead elephant. Though there is limited game in the area they are in good condition and appear to be thriving in the desert.
Later, in the Ombonde research area, we found a pair of previously unknown, uncollared, adult males. Discussion with the nearby Etendeka Mountain Camp staff indicated this pair has been moving through the river near the lodge for some time. The night before we found them, both could be heard calling extensively into the early morning hours – as could females further south. Though some of the above video is obscured, listen to those powerful calls by both males!
Later, near the Ombonde research area, we picked up the spoor of two females. After tracking them, we were surprised to find them, joined by yet another male! The male was busy throughout the late morning mating with these two females (see video). This collared male is suspected to be the so-called ‘Barab Male,’ collared by Desert Lion Conservation some time ago. It may be little wonder that so many different lions are grouping around Ombonde. There was a fair bit of rain two weeks ago. Shoots of grass are springing up, herds of springbok, including recently-born foals, are plentiful, and it looks like the area will support these herds for at least a few weeks.