Population Survey Week 8: Thick Bush

Video of desert-adapted cubs and lionesses, Etendeka Concession, December 2022.

Teams from the Northwest Lion Population Survey continued working to identify as many lions as possible across the Kunene Region. During week 8 our teams focused on the farming areas of eastern Anabeb Conservancy, where groups of lions have been splitting and re-forming recently. Further east Lion Rangers performed extensive foot patrols across the vast spaces of Ehi-rovipuka and Omatendeka conservancies. While no known lions were thought to be in these areas, our approach focused on landscape coverage to minimize the likelihood of unknown and unnoticed individuals. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays to Lion Rangers and MEFT staff worked tirelessly to complete this operation, with some great initial results. Particularly within Anabeb numerous collared and uncollared lions were observed and photographed.

Omatendeka and Ehi-rovipuka

OPL-18, Omatendeka, December 2022.

The Lion Rangers of Ehi-rovipuka and Omatendeka continued to patrol the mountainous core wildlife area of these conservancies. The decision to complete the NW Lion Population Survey over the holidays is proving wise: rain clouds have been building and scattered showers are being recorded in the area. When the rains begin in earnest it creates a double problem. First, as rivers run, traversing the area by foot and vehicle becomes more difficult – even hazardous. Second, prey and predators will increasingly disperse from around waterholes, following the rains to stands of fresh grass, often far into the mountains. We may have hit the last week or two when wildlife will still be concentrated around waterpoints. Team 1 was able to observe and photograph the lioness OPL-18, and spent extensive time monitoring the lions inhabiting the Hobatere tourism concession.

Etendeka and Eastern Anabeb

Collared desert-adapted lioness, Anabeb Conservancy, January 2023.

Drawing on great patience, Team 2 was finally able to photograph and get extensive video recordings of the group associated with OPL-16. This included footage of the cubs feeding on a giraffe carcass (see above), as well as conclusive evidence that not one, but two uncollared females were part of the group.

From there they proceeded to Anabeb Conservancy where two separate groups of lions have been forming and re-forming amongst each other. This leads to a scenario in which keeping track of “who is who is the zoo” becomes challenging. The group of three collared lionesses, known as XPL-137, XPL-138, and XPL-139, where observed and photographed with the male OPL-2. Nearby, NPL-34 and NPL-35 were photographed with two uncollared males. This group is doing quite well for themselves: they have been covering extensive territory but appear to be thriving along the rim of the escarpment.

Ehi-rovipuka Farming Areas

Three collared lions, December 2022.

Having covered the farming areas of northern Eh-rovipuka and Orupupa, Team 3 joined Team 1 to comprehensively cover the outlying farming and core wildlife areas of Ehi-rovipuka. By dividing the area among the teams, the Population Survey crew were able to probe deep into the mountains of the area and cover waterpoints far from established roads. Many of the rangers were surprised to see the extent to which prey numbers have rebounded in the area, following the good rains this past year. Large groups of mountain zebra were evident, along with many yearling springbok. While few indications of lions were found beyond the boundaries of Hobatere, the area is well-regarded for lion presence and there is a high probability that the coming rains will also mean great prey and lion mobility across the landscape.

Lion Rangers Benson Hiriua, Kennedy Uaroua, Olga Karizemi, and Undari Hoveka in Ehi-rovipuka Conservancy, January 2023.
OPL-2 in Anabeb Conservancy, January 2023.
Trail camera photo of desert-adapted lioness, Etendeka Concession, December 2022.
Trail camera photo of cubs, Etendeka Concession, December 2022.

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