Population Survey Week 3: Northern Palmwag

Male desert-adapted lion, Palmwag Concession.

The Northwest Lion Population Survey continues into its third week. The Palmwag Concession is an important source of desert-adapted lions in Kunene. From this core many lions disperse to adjacent communal areas. Intensively monitored by Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust, to combat rhino-poaching activities, the springs of Palmwag are well-known and SRT trackers serve as an important locus of information concerning lions’ movements. Though the Concession itself has few major rivers, notably the Aub, Barab and Uniab, the springs help maintain a robust population of prey species.

Western Lowlands to the Coast

Lion Rangers on foot patrol in Palmwag Concession.

Team 1 focused on the Concession’s western area, adjoining Skeleton Coast National Park. Numerous small drainage lines run from Palmwag into the park, eventually terminating at the Atlantic Ocean. Areas such as the upper Hunkap, Kai-Ais Spring, and a chain of waterholes heading south from this area are favored hunting grounds of groups of desert-adapted lions. At the time of the survey lions frequenting this area had all moved either north to the Hoanib, or further east into Palmwag.

Aub and Barab

Pair of male desert-adapted lions in Palmwag.

Two main drainage lines in Palmwag are the Aub and Barab, which run into the larger Uniab and then into the ocean. These rivers begin in the highlands south of Mbakondja along the western and southern boundaries of Anabeb Conservancy. Team 2 covered these drainages, along with the waterholes in Palmwag. Two collared males, XPL-136 and XPL-141, generally move through the area. These two were photographed early one morning by Team 2, resting near the Aub riverbed. Additionally, known lions from further East in the Etendeka Concession moved down into Palmwag during this week. Though they were tracked, diagnostic identification photos were not possible. In response the team placed trail cameras at key waterholes in hopes of better identifying individuals. The group also pushed foot patrols deep into the mountains, but found no conclusive evidence of recent lion activity.

Jackson Kavetu and John Heydinger placing a trail camera at Palmwag waterhole.

Western Anabeb

Lion Rangers at waterhole near Anabeb Conservancy.

Team 4 completed the first part of the survey focusing on the boundary of western Anabeb and the Palmwag Concession, particularly around the farming areas of Mbakondja, Otjajondjira, and Noue Pos. A string of springs in southern Anabeb in the mountains often containing evidence that lions are moving in the area, though during the survey all was largely quiet. There was limited evidence that an unknown male may be moving in the area, but this required follow-up tracking, which it was agreed would be undertaken in Week 4. The group was also responsible for responding to human-lion conflict incidents at farms adjoining the survey area.

Tracking lions in Anabeb Conservancy.
Collared desert-adapted lion in Palmwag Concession.
Northwest Lion Population Survey Team, Session 1.

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