Namibia Desert Lion Project
2017 - Donation of US$ 8,000

Hope remains: the ‘floodplain pride’ comprised just two adult lionesses (Xpl-69 and Xpl-55) and three female juveniles from Xpl-55, the so-called 'floodplain cubs'. The mother of the cubs died in October 2016. Luckily, however, they seem to have hooked on to Xpl-69, who allows them to eat from the prey she kills. The survival of the three cubs is crucial to the survival of the desert lions themselves.

The SwissAfrican Foundation supported the Desert Lion Project in 2017 with a US$ 8,000 donation to increase the survival chances of these young animals.

A special thanks for their generous support goes to Katy and Pete Strickler from Zurich, co-founders and co-owners of the Desert Breeze Lodge in Swakopmund.

What happened in 2016
Of the five musketeers only one survived.
Sadly, the conflict between human and desert lion escalated in 2016 when the young lions continually approached villages and small settlements, killing cows and donkeys. A collaboration with the residents, which included using flashlights and fireworks, was implemented to prevent the lions from getting too close to the villages. The cattle enclosure at Tomakas was fitted with LED lights to see if colourful flashing lights would stop the lions.

After one of the musketeers died of a gunshot wound on June 12, 2016, a further three of the young lions were found poisoned on 10 Aug 2016 after they killed a donkey. Xpl-93 'Tullamore', the only one of the five brothers to survive after travelling alone at the time of the tragedy, was translocated to the Uniab Delta to take him as far away as possible from the danger zone. However, after eight days, Tullamore headed back home to the Okongwe/Tomakas region, unaware that his brothers were no longer alive. Having arrived at the Okongwe waterhole, he met the lionesses of the Okongwe pack, and there is now hope that a new family will emerge here soon.

What happened in 2017
On April 14, 2017, Tullamore satellite transmitter stopped transmitting his position data. This lion was also probably poisoned or shot.

The three female cubs that became orphaned at the age of 11 months after their mother (Xpl-55) died on the Hoanib Floodplain, have survived. They found their way through the dune-belt and settled at Oasis spring near the mouth of the Hoanib River. During Aug 2017 the three cubs discovered the Cape fur seal colony at Mowe Bay. They visited Mowe Bay station and the seal colony of three occasions and were observed feeding on several seals carcasses. Over the years the Hoanib Floodplain pride developed a culture of killing giraffes that started with the old lioness, Xpl-10 “The Queen”. The third Orphan (now just over two years of age) that joined Xpl-69 is already actively pursuing and hunting giraffes along the Hoanib River.

What happened in 2018
What looked to be an unusually dry year until late in Mar 2018 suddenly turned into a year of exceptional rainfall. Vast and extended showers resulted in large-scale flooding of the ephemeral rivers. Six of the major river systems reached the ocean: the Hoaruseb, the Hoanib, the Uniab, the Koigab, the Huab and the Ugab. Such extended rains and floods were last observed in 1995.

In the area of the White Lady Lodge / Brandberg area of the Ugab River, human-wildlife conflict escalated in 2018 because lions were habituated / fed at the White Lady Lodge. The lions started killing livestock. In addition, some of the lions occasionally visited the White Lady Lodge and the White Lady rock painting that posed a threat to public safety. Lions were removed from the area to an undisclosed location.

The orphaned lionesses, now 2.5 years old, have adapted to living along the coastal habitat at the mouth of the Hoanib River. They have become highly skilled in catching wetland birds, mainly cormorants and flamingos, and Cape fur seals. Using thermal imagery and infra-red night vision equipment their movements and hunting behaviour have been observed along the coast. The lionesses appear fixated on cormorants and flamingos – they watch the flight patterns of the birds intently, follow them and attempt to capture the birds where they land and roost.