Over the past week, Dr. John Heydinger and Lion Ranger Field Operations Assistant Jendery Tsaneb, have been moving on foot through the Etendeka Concession in search of previously unmarked and uncollared groups of desert-adapted lions. This area is incredibly rugged and necessitated Heydinger and Tsaneb covering more than 80 km on-foot over five days. Their efforts were not in vain as ample evidence of multiple groups of lions inhabiting the area was uncovered.
Through extensive discussion with the staff of Etendeka Mountain Camp and local Save the Rhino Trust trackers, efforts were focused around a series of springs and the ‘carnivore highways’ connecting them. These highways are paths used by carnivores between springs that frequently run along ephemeral riverbeds in areas of relative cover.
On 14 March a lioness was spotted resting from the noonday sun under the shade of a Salvadora persica near Appa Spring. Approaching carefully, Heydinger and Tsaneb identified a further three subadults resting within the salvadora. All four lions appear to be well-fed and in good health. The group became aware of their observers and casually removed over a nearby rise, where subsequent tracking indicated they spent that night and the following morning before heading further north into the mountains. This is an important find as these lions have not previously been observed by researchers or government staff working in the region. This further indicates what many of the Lion Rangers and our partners have suspected: that there is a substantial subpopulation of desert-adapted lions along the escarpment! More news to come.