Population Survey Week 7: Eastern Conservancies

OPL-38 with zebra carcass, December 2022.

We begin the eastern portion of the Northwest Lion Population Survey focusing on the conservancies of ≠Khoadi-//Hoas, Omatendeka, and Orupupa. For these remaining weeks, three teams are responsible for different areas along the escarpment and bordering Etosha National Park. In recent years this has been the main area of human-lion conflict in the northwest, as well as containing the majority of lions in Kunene. During this first week we observed and photographed lions across the area – the groups appear to be thriving.

Omatendeka Core Wildlife Area

Subadult desert-adapted lion, Omatendeka core wildlife area, December 2022.

The mountainous Omatendeka core wildlife area is home to groups of desert-adapted lions, who cover great distances, from Western Anabeb Conservancy, all the way to Ehi-rovipuka. Yet, they repeatedly return to the mountains of Omatendeka. Headed by MEFT Large Carnivore Coordinator Uakendisa Muzuma, Team 1 spent more than a week intensively covering this area. The Lion Rangers were hard at work, often from before sunrise to after sunset performing foot patrols throughout the week. Fresh spoor was seen moving past the old Onguindi Hunting Camp, this was positively attributed to the male lion OPL-33, who had recently been seen in Anabeb Conservancy, but was returning to his normal haunts. During the week individual lions OPL-33, OPL-38, as well as one subadult male, were observed and photographed at a recently killed zebra carcass. Other lions moving through the area include the Okavariona Group which had been photographed during Week Six of the Population Survey.

≠Khoadi-//Hoas Farming Areas

Subadult male desert-adapted lions near Klip River, December 2022.

Just east of the Klip River, ≠Khoadi-//Hoas farms are found in the rugged Tafelberg area. Two groups of lions, one group of five individuals, and one group of six, often found in nearby Klip River, will often visit this area. In particular, the group of five associated with the female NPL-42 had eluded our teams’ efforts to photograph them during the previous session. Our “mountain team” was deployed to this difficult area with the sole purpose of getting photographs of this group. Just west of Tafelberg Opstal they were found resting above an ephemeral riverbed. Following some tricky maneuvering the group was photographed – they appear to be doing quite well. Along the way the wandering male OPL-3 was also tracked and photographed, having recently killed a kudu. Finally, following some difficult night-time work, the team was able to get video and photos the lioness OPL-16, as well as her four cubs and two uncollared female companions.

Two lionesses, Tafelberg Opstal area, December 2022.

Orupupa Adjoining Etosha National Park

OPL-3 at kudu carcass, December 2022.

Human-lion conflict is a challenge for the farmers of Orupupa Conservancy, particularly farming communities bordering Etosha National Park. North of the Galton Gate repair work is needed on the Etosha fence, and lions cross into farming areas with some regularity. Team 3 was deployed to the Onaiso and White Mountain areas of Orupupa Conservancy to asses lion movements in the area. Team Leader Olga Karizemi ensured the Rangers scoured the area’s waterpoints and talked at length with farmers about lion movements they have seen, lion tracks can be common in the area, but are usually periodic. Though lions moving through Orupupa are not generally considered to reside permanently outside the park, surveying the area is important for getting a comprehensive count of lions across Kunene. Going back to at least the 1970s, lions have been coming out of Etosha to raid neighboring farmers livestock, with the result that lions can be killed on commercial and communal farmlands.

Team 3 Lion Rangers and MEFT staff: (from left) Orupupa Conservancy Game Guard, Kennedy Uaroua, Olga Karizemi, Alex Amutenya, Benson Hiriua, Undari Hoveka.
Team 3 along the Etosha fence.
Male lion in thicket, December 2022.
Collared desert-adapted lioness, Etendeka Concession, December 2022.

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