Translocation of Remaining Huab Group

‘Huab group’ of desert-adapted lions, prior to collaring, December 2020.

Continued human-lion conflict (HLC) and a lack of available prey in the area over recent weeks led the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) to take the difficult decision to remove the remaining members of the Huab group. Over a period of four days the Lion Rangers assisted MEFT and staff from N/a’anku sê private reserve with assessing, tracking, and removing the lions from the area. As is always the case with Specially-Protected Species (Nature Conservation Act 4/1975), such a decision ultimately lies with government. The Lion Rangers are humbled to be trusted to assist with such important operations.

On 22 April MEFT management authorized the translocation of the four lions of Huab pride. This included three subadult females and a subadult male (pictured above).

On 27 April the Lion Rangers, in partnership with N/a’anku sê completed the translocation of the first female, who was seen to be the direct cause of repeated HLC incidents. This was written about on this site earlier. During this operation the Lion Rangers and N/a’anku sê staff observed the remaining members of the group further south of the Huab. At this time the Lion Rangers research team made the considered assessment that these three were in fine condition, far from potential HLC, and did not need to be removed.

Collared lioness (XPL-135), south of Huab in April. Photo: O. Adolph
Unmarked lioness, south of Huab, April. Photo: O. Adolph.
Collared lion (XPL-134), south of Huab in April. Photo: O. Adolph.

At the beginning of May the Lion Rangers were contacted to come assess the body condition of the remaining members of the group, who had returned to the De Riet area. While their body condition had clearly deteriorated it was not believed any of the remaining lions were too ill to survive a careful translocation. This difficult decision was made based on the likelihood of further HLC and lack of available prey in the area. During this period of assessment, the remaining male (XPL-134) killed a dog from a nearby farm, further validating the decision to remove the group based on human safety and livelihood concerns.

Unmarked lioness near Huab riverbed in May.
Nighttime photo of XPL-134 with a recently killed dog near conservancy farm.

On the morning of 4 May, the Lion Rangers and N/a’anku sê staff further assessed the body condition of the two females (XPL-133 and an unmarked female). Following an MEFT directive these two were successfully and safely baited, darted, and transported to N/a’anku sê. The translocation went smoothly and was performed with the supervision of Torra Lion Rangers Erik Gewers and Edward Rhyn, who been entrusted by government and their conservancies to be custodians of lions on communal land.

Torra Lion Ranger Edward Rhyn assisting with health examination of lioness before translocation.
XPL-134 being transported to N/a’anku sê.

Following tracking of the remaining male in the Aba-Huab area on 5 May, XPL-134 was safely darted and translocated to N/a’anku sê under the supervision of MEFT-Khorixas staff on 6 May. As of the time of this writing all four Huab lions are doing well at N/a’anku sê and have been reunited.

Huab group prior to translocation, December 2020.

Thanks to all the staff from MEFT, N/a’anku sê, the Desert Lion Trust, Desert-Lion Human Relations Aid, the Lion Rangers, Desert Air, Twyfelfontein Lodge, and particularly the communities of Torra, Doro !Nawas, and Uibasen conservancies for their assistance in these difficult operations.

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