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AHLRP - Update June 2015

fig17 spots cubshcf2 collaring june8 2015

Project Name: Hobatere Lion Research Project

Title: Lion (Panthera leo) population within the Hobatere Concession Area and movements between the Hobatere Concession Area, western Etosha National Park and adjacent communal farmland.

Research Permit No.: 2066/2015

Principal Investigator: Tammy Hoth

Co-workers: Dr. David Roberts, Dr. M. Jago, Dr. C-H Moeller, Mr Janek Hoth, Mr. Steve Swann, Mr Francois Robberts (assistant), Mr Dominic du Raan (assistant), Dr Laura Roberts (assistant) Mr. B. Muzuma (Conservancy representative), Mr. K. Kavetu (Conservancy representative), Mr. J. Kavetu (Conservancy representative)

Reporting Period: 01 July 2014 – 30 June 2015

Project Location: Hobatere Concession Area and Western Etosha National Park, adjacent farmland in communal conservancies to the south, west and north including primarily Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka, Anabeb, !Khoa di //Hoas and the Etendeka & Palmwag Concessions

Author: Tammy Hoth

 

Background

The Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Large Carnivore Atlas 2012) estimates the Namibian population at 1113 – 1644 lions in three density distribution categories: low, medium and high (see distribution Map below). The Kunene and Etosha sub-populations are isolated from the Caprivi/Khaudom sub-population. The Hobatere Concession Area (hereafter referred to as Hobatere) lies adjacent to western Etosha, with the Hobatere lion population falling within the Etosha sub-population and in the medium to high density category according to the distribution maps published by Namibian large carnivore atlas (2012), Figure 1.

fig1 map namibia

 Fig 1: Lion (Panthera leo) distribution in Namibia, Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (2012)

 

Lions (Panthera leo) move in and out of Hobatere on a regular basis, along the southern, western and northern boundaries as well as between western Etosha National Park and Hobatere; lions also regularly move through the Etosha boundary fence onto adjacent communal farmland (comprising approximately six communal conservancies) and approximately fifty free-hold livestock / game farms. Communal livestock farmers of the #Khoa di //Hoas and Ehirovipuka Conservancies, amongst others, are affected by this farmer-predator conflict, regularly reporting lion movement onto farmland especially where the boundary fence is porous. Lion sightings, tracks as well as livestock killed by lions, are common on these border farms. The frequency of lions crossing the Hobatere boundary and the establishment of independent populations outside of the park, are little known. The extent of livestock loss and resultant lion mortality on adjacent farmland is sporadic and cannot yet be properly defined.

In 2009 the National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Management was implemented, whereby a balance should be established between conservation priorities and the needs of people living with wildlife. This Policy creates mechanisms for rural communities to manage and benefit from wildlife and other natural resources. The strategies of the policy include:

  1. Research and Monitoring: "To carry out research on the social carrying capacity for certain species that can cause problems, which is determined by the conflicts they cause and the degree of tolerance shown by local residents."
  2. "In order to manage HWC (the farmer-lion conflict) effectively and efficiently, it is crucial to have adequate data that is available in a usable form for key decision-makers."
  3. Building Self-Reliance: 'To build the capacity for all stakeholders to develop HWC management and mitigation plans and to implement appropriate mitigation methods."
  4. Protected Areas: 'To reduce the impact on neighbours of wildlife that leaves protected areas and cause problems."

Furthermore the draft Lion Conservation Management Plan has an objective to "initiate targeted research on lion ecology, biology and management and mitigation of conflict".
Communal Conservancies have added substantially to the network of conservation areas in Namibia, but, as these areas are not fully protected in the same manner as national parks, it cannot be assumed that the natural resources are being sustained. The best indication of the impact of conservancies comes from recovery and increase of wildlife populations. Additionally, the status of large predators can be a useful indicator of the health of underlying wildlife populations.

Driven by increased food supply, the spatial expansion of lion in the conservancies of the north-western Kunene region has increased. While numbers of certain large carnivores have remained stable or increased, numbers of lions have steadily declined. The disproportional control of lion may be due to less tolerance of lion driven by fear rather than the actual negative impacts caused by lions. This is suggested by the response of communities to Human-Wildlife Conflict incidents where frequency of 'problem lions' being removed is completely out of proportion to the damage caused by lions; a negative consequence is that of all the predators, lion are probably the most valuable for trophy hunting and tourism (Namibia’s Communal Conservancies 2007 – Review of Progress)

The North-west (desert) lion population of Kunene Region is likewise being intensively monitored and although this population is continuous with the Etosha population, the understanding of the populations as well as the risks and conservation status differ. Population density and activity patterns in Hobatere were established by Dr P. Stander pre-2007. A number of individuals were collared but little information is available on post-2007 density and movement. The Hobatere Concession Area, which forms the corridor between the northwest and ENP, has been devoid of monitoring or research, in particular since the departure of the Hobatere tourism concessionaires on 01 May 2011 until the start of the Hobatere Lion Research Project in 2013.

 

Phase 1

During Phase 1 (April 2013 – March 2014), this project

  1. Aimed to re-establish accurate current data on the demography of lions within Hobatere and the surrounding areas.
  2. It has provided initial data on the movement of lions into and out of Hobatere, as well as
  3. Attempted to provide some of the driving forces which stimulate lions to move.
  4. The project aimed to quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere.
  5. Mitigation measures were analysed and the effectiveness of each measure was assessed.
  6. After two years, resultant information is now available to effectively assist in the making of informed decisions as to how best to alleviate conflict and minimise livestock losses, while at the same time maximising conservation goals for the lion.

This Project is supported by The Okorusu Community Trust, The Hampton School, UK, The Amersfoort Wildlife Trust, Netherlands, Stichting SPOTS, Netherlands the ING 'Goede Doelenfonds voor medewerkers', Netherlands, The Putman Group, Netherlands, ‘Stichting Vrienden Beekse Bergen en Dierenrijk’, Netherlands, AfriCat UK, AfriCat America and the AfriCat Foundation, Namibia as well as donor individuals.

 

Phase 2

This Report summarises the results during Phase 2 (01 July 2014 – 30 June 2015).

Key Questions / Hypotheses tested

What is the lion density and population size within the 34 000 ha Hobatere Concession Area?

Lion population size and demography were evaluated through live observations and photographs taken by camera traps.

Camera Trapping Camera traps were initially placed at the key waterholes within the Hobatere concession. When more traps became available some were set up at baiting stations supplied irregularly with meat and others along roads known to be used by lions. This first phase of camera trapping revealed the basic structure of the prides inhabiting the concession. In late 2014 five new camera traps were acquired. These were added to the original traps and also positioned at the waterholes, baiting stations and along roads and game trails. The photographs taken by these cameras along with the information from the satellite-GPS collars showed that placing the cameras on roads and game trails only occasionally photographed lions. Even when lions were known to be in the areas close to the trail cameras they would not necessarily walk past the cameras. We have concluded that for an accurate census of lion population in this environment a trail camera system is not sufficient. The camera must be positioned facing something that will attract any lion in the vicinity. When water sources are small (such as artificial water holes) and not plentiful then a camera trap census of animals visiting them gives a good indication of the population in the area. When there is plentiful water in an area or large bodies of water then they cannot be easily covered by camera traps. Baited camera traps work very well if sufficient bait is available to regularly resupply the bait stations. We have had difficulty sourcing enough bait to supply our baited cameras. An alternative that we still wish to try are scent-baited cameras, attracting lions with an interesting scent. This should be easier to maintain than bait but still attract any lions in the vicinity and cause them to pause in-front of a camera for long enough to take good quality photographs which are necessary for individual identification.

spots lion pride
Fig 2. Typical camera trap photographs of lions in Hobatere.
male female lion
Fig 3. Typical camera trap photographs of lions in Hobatere.
bcl trail cam lion
Fig 4. Camera trap photograph of a lion (T—I Mbeelo).
trail cam lion closeup
Fig 5. Rare close up photograph of whisker spots.

 

Lion demography within the Hobatere Concession Area:

As far as could be established in year 2 (between 01 July 2014 and 30 June 2015), the following individuals have been identified: 2 adult males, 4 adult females, 11 Sub-Adults + 5 cubs = 22 lions

Males: Three males were initially collared with VHF collars on farm Ermo #646 (21.03.2012), a commercial livestock and hunting farm adjacent to the south-western Etosha National Park border and returned to western Etosha (03h00, 22.03.2012, Duineveld, approx. 30km from farm Ermo) as part of a collaborative project with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (The Etosha Trans-boundary Lion Project, Permit # 1567/2011; under the supervision of Dr Ortwin Aschenborn). Approximately 7 days after their relocation, the 3 male lions returned to the well-visited, baiting station on farm Ermo via the Kaross Block (entry through elephant break in Kaross Block eastern fence), but were successfully chased off (exit at same fence-break) by the AfriCat Communal Carnivore Conservation (CCCP) team.

The three males were observed crossing the C35 in the direction of the Hobatere Campsite and monitoring via VHF Telemetry located them at the Hobatere Campsite, May and October 2012.

Subsequently, two of the three males have been collared with GPS-Satellite collars (Hpl-2 – Volkel and Hpl-6 – Masialeti); these males are most likely siblings, they are regularly solitary, occasionally seen together or with the known lionesses. Hpl-2 (figure 2) was collared at Hobatere Lodge on 04.10.2014 (at that time the collar attached in 2012 was missing) and re-collared in western Etosha at Renostervlei on 03.05.2015, due to faulty collar.

fig6 volkel lion
Fig 6. Hpl-2, Volkel.
fig7 whisker spots lion
Fig 7. Whisker Spots Hpl-2.
fig8 lion nose closeup
Fig 8. Nose close up Hpl-2.
fig9 lion canines
Fig 9. Canines Hpl-2.

 

Hpl-6 was collared at Hobatere Campsite on 07.06.2015, the VHF collar originally attached in 2012 was removed and replaced with a GPS-satellite collar. The third male has not been seen since May 2013. One older, scrawny, unknown male was briefly observed in the vicinity of Hobatere Tree House waterhole mid-October 2014, but has not been seen since.

male lion namibia
Fig 10. Collaring and weighing Hpl-6, Masialeti.
male lion northern namibia
Fig 11. Collaring and weighing Hpl-6, Masialeti.
lion africa
Fig 12. Hpl-6 jaw injury.
male lion closeup of nose
Fig 13. Nose Hpl-6.
male lion research africat
Fig 14. Penis Hpl-6.
Hobatere lion research Namibia
Fig 15. Urinary catheter Hpl-6.

 

Females: Two loosely-associated prides have been identified spending at least part of their time in Hobatere. Each pride is made up of two adult lionesses and their offspring. Neither pride has a resident male.

The Hobatere Lodge pride (SPOTS Pride) contains nine lions at present and consists of two lionesses presumed to be mother and daughter and their offspring. The older female has an old VHF collar, she was collared as part of another unknown project. The collar looks too tight but does not seem to worry her, she has a brand mark on her forelegs (T—l) and has been named Mebeelo (Figure 16). Despite numerous attempts to immobilise her and replace her collar we have been unable to dart her. She has raised two female sub-adults (born in approximately July or August 2013). The other adult female (Hpl-1 – SPOTS) (Figure 17) was first collared on 27.10.2013 at Hobatere Lodge waterhole, the collar was replaced on 23.09.2014 at Hobatere Airfield bait-site. She has raised two female sub-adults (estimated born October-December 2012) and three younger cubs (born approx. 03.10.2014). She has been seen with 1 male, possibly the Hpl-6 (prior to collaring). The two lionesses and their offspring spend time together as a large pride but often separate.

fig16 mebeelo lion
Fig 16. T –I, Mebeelo.
fig17 spots cubs
Fig 17. Hpl-1, Spots and her three cubs.
fig18 whisker spots lion
Fig 18. Whisker Spots Hpl-1.
fig19 hpl3 collar
Fig 19. Collar on Hpl-1.
fig20 big lion teeth
Fig 20. Hpl-1, teeth May 2015.
fig21 collaring lion
Fig 21. Collaring Hpl-1.
fig22 lion cubs family
Fig 22. Hpl-1’s three cubs in February.
fig23 lion cubs family
Fig 23. Hpl-1’s three cubs in February.

 

The Hobatere Campsite waterhole is frequented by two lionesses, probably mother and daughter and their offspring (ten lions). The older adult lioness (brand mark X1 - Moola) raised 5 cubs (born approximately in October-December 2012) it is suspected that only four of these cubs have survived to the time of writing. The family group is photographed regularly by camera traps at the Hobatere Campsite waterhole and surrounds, seen occationally with one male (Hpl 2 - Volkel). She was seen with two young cubs (born in approximately September 2014) in late 2014. At the time of writing only one of these two cubs has survived.

Recently the second, younger, lioness (Hpl 7 – Liluli) with three sub-adult cubs (one male, two female) has been seen both on camera traps and by observers at the Hobatere campsite. Her cubs are younger than those of X-1 (Moola). She was immobilised and fitted with a GPS-Satellite collar on 8.06.2015. The two lionesses and their cubs tolerate each other but we do not have enough information to tell whether they form a closely bonded pride.

collaring lions in Namibia
Fig 24. Hpl-7 While immobilised.
collaring lions in Namibia
Fig 25. Hpl-7, teeth.
collaring lions in Namibia
Fig 26. Collecting blood samples from Hpl-7.
collaring lions in Namibia
Fig 27. Whisker spots, Hpl-7.

Figure 28 shows the probable maternal relationships between the lionesses currently found in Hobatere. T—I (Mebeelo) is the mother of X-1 (Moola) according to anecdotal evidence from the time that they were branded. T—I (Mebeelo)’s age and close association with Hpl-1 make it likely that they are mother and daughter. T—I (Mebelo)’s latest cubs and those of Hpl-1 (Spots) and X-1 (Moola) were seen with their mothers by this research team from a young age. The mother-daughter relationship between X-1 (Moola) and Hpl-7 is passed only on their relative ages and tolerance for one another.

fig 28 lion family tree
Figure 28: A probable family tree of the lionesses of Hobatere and their sub-adult offspring as at July 2015. Hobatere pride in Green, Campsite lions in Blue.

 

The Etendeka lions: One male (Hpl 3 – Gaob Hampton, which means "King" in Damara) was collared on 27.05.2015 and one female (Hpl 4 - Muna, which means "look" in Herero) and one male (Hpl 5 - Tara which means "see" in Herero) were collared 28.05.2015, in the Etendeka Concession, Omatendeka Conservancy. The lions were named by the local Damara and Hetero people living in the Anabeb and Omatendeka conservancies where the lions live.

fig29 hpl3 whisker spots leftside
Fig 29. Whisker Spots left side Hpl-3, Gaob Hampton.
fig30 hpl3 whisker spots
Fig 30. Whisker spots right side Hpl-3, Gaob Hampton.
fig31 lion immobolised
Fig 31. Hpl-3, Gaob Hampton while immobilised.
fig32 day after collaring
Fig 32. Hpl-3, Gaob Hampton the day after collaring.
Dr David with female lion
Fig 33. Collaring Hpl-4, Muna.
lion research northern namibia
Fig 34. Hpl-4, Muna before reversing the immobilising drug.
closeup of female lion face
Fig 35. Hpl-4, Muna Whisker Spots.
nose colour lion
Fig 36. Hpl-4, Muna nose colour.
measuring lion teeth
Fig 37. Teeth Hpl-5, Tara.
male lion Etendeke NamibiaFig 38. Hpl-5, Tara guarding Hpl-4, Muna when she was immobilised.
male lion under anesthetic
Fig 39. Hpl-5, Tara face.
male lion
Fig 40. Hpl-5, Tara whisker spots.

 

What are the activity patterns of lions located in Hobatere?

The Hobatere Lion Research Project (hereafter HLRP) commenced at the end of the 2012/13 rain season, where the total precipitation in this area was well below average (less than 250mm / annum). The 2013/14 rainfall proved to be less than average (280-320 mm), the 2014/15 average rainfall measuring 280 - 380 mm, with minimal general rains; by mid-May, the only wildlife water points within the 34 000 ha were Campsite Waterhole, Lodge Waterhole and Tree House.

fig 41 hobatere map
Figure 41: The Hobatere Concession Courtesy of Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Etosha Ecological.

 

The distance between the Lodge and Campsite waterholes is approximately 11.6 km, the distance between Lodge waterhole and Tree House is approx. 4.6 km, Tree House to Campsite 14.5 km. Animals frequenting the Campsite Waterhole can also make use of waterholes within western Etosha National Park (ENP) (the distances after each water point indicate distance from the Campsite waterhole); See Hobatere Map (Figure 41) i.e. Rhino Bomas (approx. 4 km), Kaross-Hoek (approx.12.5 km), Kaross- Fontein (approx.10 km), Otjovazandu-Fontein (approx. 7.6 km). Equiinus (approx. 9 km) and Renostervlei (approx. 27 km).

Patterns of activity were recorded both via trail cameras placed strategically, the 12-hourly GPS-Satellite downloads and observations by the research team, MET Rangers, Campsite assistants and farmers adjacent to the Hobatere boundary fence.

 

Collared Lions.
To date seven lions have been collared.

LION ID LION NAME COLLAR ID
HPL-1 Spots  AWT1334
HPL-2 Volkel  AWT1651
HPL-3 Gaob Hampton  AWT1541
HPL-4 Muna  AWT1540
HPL-5 Tara  AWT1539
HPL-6 Masialeti  Telonics1
HPL-7 Liluli  AWT1335

 

Morphometrics of collared Lions.
Body measurements of each lion are taken while it is immobilised. The following tables summarise the most important data collected so far.

Canine length in mm

LION ID LION NAME LEFT UPPER LEFT LOWER RIGHT UPPER RIGHT LOWER
HPL-1 Spots 50 40 47 40
HPL-2 Volkel 45 45 60 50
HPL-3 Gaob Hampton 52 43 52 43
HPL-4 Muna 43 35 42 34
HPL-5 Tara 55 43 56 40
HPL-6 Masialeti 56 45 54 (missing)
HPL-7 Liluli 44 35 43 34

 

fig42 canines
Fig 42. Canines Hpl-1
female lion teeth
Fig 43. Canines Hpl-4.
male lion teeth
Fig 44. Canines Hpl-5.
lion research namibia
Fig 45. Canines Hpl-6.
lions africat
Fig 46. Canines Hpl-7.

 

Body Measurements (cm)

LION
ID
LION
NAME
BODY
MASS
(KG)
SHOULDER
HEIGHT
(CM)
LEG
LENGTH
(CM)*
HEAD
LENGTH
(CM)
HEAD
CIRCUM-
FERENCE

(CM)
NECK
LENGTH
NECK
CIRCUM-
FERENCE

TOP (CM)
NECK
CIRCUM-
FERENCE

BASE (CM)
GIRTH
(CM)
BODY
LENGTH
(CM) **
TAIL
LENGTH
(CM)
HPL-1 Spots - 97 107 39 71 30 61 77 124 100 84
HPL-2 Volkel - 118 127 44 98 - - 88 148 138 89
HPL-3 Gaob Hampton - 120 131 48 94 28 62 84 134 122 105
HPL-4 Muna - 93 109 38 69 25 55 69 118 103 80
HPL-5 Tara - 105 118 54 88 31 70 82 124 101 92
HPL-6 Masialeti 200 - 102 45 - 35 69 89 138 115 96
HPL-7 Liluli 154 - 105 37 74 17 63 75 128 109 82

* Along body contour
** From base of neck to base of tail.

 

Right Foot Pad Measurements - Right Foot (cm)

LION ID LION NAME FRONT
LATERO-MEDIAL
FRONT
PROXIMO-DISTAL
HIND
LATERO-MEDIAL
HIND
PROXIMO-DISTAL
HPL-1 Spots - - - -
HPL-2 Volkel 8 11 8 9
HPL-3 Gaob Hampton 9.3 7.1 8.4 6.5
HPL-4 Muna 7.5 5.9 7.1 5.8
HPL-5 Tara 9.0 6.8 8.1 7.8
HPL-6 Masialeti 9.4 6.9 8.8 7.3
HPL-7 Liluli 7 5 7 5.2
fig47 footpad lionFig 47. Foot pad HPL-1 fig48 footpad lion
Fig 48. Hind foot pad HPL-3
female lion padFig 49. Foot pad Hpl-4. male ion footFig 50. Foot pad Hpl-5. lion research africatFig 51. Foot pad Hpl-7.

 

Movement patterns of collared lions.
All collared lions have been fitted with GPS satellite collars. These record the location of the lion every two hours and send that location via a satellite link to where we can access it almost immediately. The daily movements of the lions are recorded and described by linking the consecutive locations with straight lines, marking not the exact path taken by the lions but the shortest distance between known locations. The home ranges of the lions can then be described by plotting all the movement lines onto the same map. Figure 52 shows the home range of Hpl-1 (Spots) from October 2013 to April 2015 and Figure 53 shows the information for Hpl-2 (Volkel) from October 2014 until April 2015 plotted over Google Earth satellite imagery of the study area.

fig52 homerange lion spots
Fig 52. Home range of Hpl-1 (SPOTS) October 2013 to April 2015.
fig53 homerange lion volkel
Fig 53. Home range of Hpl-2 (Volkel) October 2014 to April 2015

 

From the home range maps it can easily be seen that Hpl-1 has a home range that covers most of the Hobatere concession. Since collaring she has never entered the Etosha National Park. She spends most of her time in close proximity to the Lodge Waterhole, the Tree House Waterhole or moving between the two. When not at these common locations she would spend several days moving around other areas of her range, not often visiting the same areas again. At no time did she spend more than 36 hours outside the Hobatere fence. The remarkably straight lines between her den site and the Lodge Waterhole describe her movements while she had young cubs in the den. This activity is described more fully later.

Hpl-2 (Volkel) has a far larger home range. He spends most of his time near the Renostervlei waterhole and the Otjovasando Airfield in Western Etosha. Occasionally he moves into the area between the Dolomite hills on which Dolomite Camp is built and the Western Etosha boundary for several days at a time. He also occasionally visits the Hobatere area, especially the Lodge and Campsite waterholes and will travel through the Kaross block of the Etosha National Park. He had moved out of the protected areas of Hobatere and the Etosha National Park on two occasions. Once onto the farm Ermo, and once onto the communal farmland near Werda. The long "Spike" which can be seen on the map (Figure 53) to the south of the Southern boundary of Etosha is presumed to be an error as the points recorded either side of this anomaly are within 20m of each other.

The maps drawn for the more recently-collared lions ( Figures 54 and 55) describe their movements since collaring but there is not enough information to describe the home ranges of these lions yet.

 

The lions collared in the Etendeka Concession were closely associated at the time of collaring (the female was in oestrus), they remained close to each other for some time until Hpl-3 (Gaob Hampton) moved away from the other two. When Hpl-3 was immobilized for collaring he was with the lioness Hpl-4. (Muna) The next day Hpl-5 (Tara) was with her. That evening (28 May 2015) both Hpl-4 and 5 were immobilized for collaring and then Hpl-3 remained with the lioness for three days, Hpl-5 stayed close to the couple during this time. After the three days Hpl-3 moved away and from then until the time of writing Hpl-4 and 5 have remained together.

fig 55 movement lion hpl7

Fig 54. Movement of the lions collared on Etendeka from the 27th of May until the 11th of June 2015. Hpl-3 (Gaob Hampton) Blue, Hpl-4 (Muna) Red, Hpl-5 (Tara) Black.

 

fig 54 movement lions collared

Fig 55. Movement of Hpl-7 (Liluli) from 10 -12 July 2015

 

Figure 56 shows Spots’s movements between the 24th of September and the 11th of November 2014 while she had cubs in her den. On the 24th of September she made a visit to the den site, she then returned to the site each day from the 26th of September until the 2nd of October. On the 3rd of October she spent the entire day in the den. From then until the 31st of October she spent the majority of her time in the den, only leaving it for short periods to walk directly to the Lodge Waterhole and back to the den. She made these water trips at intervals of between one and three days, with a mean time of 2.4 days spent at the den. From the 1st of November until the 18th she visited other areas away from the den other than the lodge waterhole, this was correlated with light rain in the area and the availability of surface water closer to the den. From the 18th until the 20th of November she remained at the den and she left the den with her cubs on the 21st of November. The denning period lasted 81 days, approximately 12 weeks.

fig55 homerange lion spots cubs den

Fig 56. Hpl-1 (Spots)’s movements while she had cubs in the den.

 

Where do the lions go in and out along the southern, western and northern boundaries and why?

The southern boundary of Hobatere, which stretches from the south-western corner of the Kaross Block (western ENP) to the Kamdescha Veterinary Control Gate, is approx. 18-20 km in length; large sections of this fence have been flattened by elephant seeking water on farmland, providing easy entry and exit for wildlife, including predators and livestock. The farming settlements of Marienhoehe & Kameeldoring are based approximately 25m from this fence, while Middelpos, Quo Vadis and Kamdescha 1+2, range from 500m to approx. 7 km away (!Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy).

2004-2007, under the guidance and financial support of AfriCat, the farming communities contributed to the repair and upkeep of the said fence, reducing their livestock losses from 50+ to less than 10 animals per annum (pers comm. Jeremias Urib, Lantine, Cosmos, Peter Gaeb, Marienhoehe farm). In 2007, one of the water points in Hobatere (De Wildt), situated only 1.5 km from the boundary fence dried up, forcing herds of elephants out of Hobatere onto adjacent farmland (flattened fences, reports, sightings, elephant tracks, dung, broken branches, installation destruction are proof of regular elephant presence). 2007-2010 saw the start of the AfriCat Livestock Protection Programme (LPP) along the Hobatere southern boundary, whereby eight (8) nocturnal livestock kraals were upgraded or built in order to provide a safe-haven for cattle, horses, donkeys, goats and sheep. (Jeremias Urib, farmer Marienhoehe, lost 46 goats before his kraal was upgraded by AfriCat, thereafter no losses; Farmer Lantine has lost no goats since her kraal was built 2011;one cow who spent the night in the field was reported missing, the carcass found close to Lantine’s home). Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the farmers along the southern boundary ceased to repair the fence and to date the kraals are only used sporadically. Livestock is often seen within Hobatere during the day and at night and most often the cattle are not kraaled, despite lion activity in the area. Lions move out of Hobatere after livestock, the most common 'hot spots' being along the C35 between Kaross Block and Hobatere, Marienhoehe-Pos, Kameeldoring-Pos and Kamdescha 1+2 (farms along Hobatere southern boundary). Farmers & herdsmen set gin-traps (leg-hold) and wire snares, killing any trapped animal found.

gin traps used to snare lions


Figure 57: A gin trap used to catch lions near Hobatere.

 

The western and northern boundaries of Hobatere form part of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF or Red Line) (see Hobatere Map) the farming communities of Werda and the 'Sesfontein farmers' are settled against the fence, whilst Onguta, Orongurru and Arisona villages are based 1-10 km from the fence.

The western and northern boundaries run along mountainous (elevations up to 1300m) and riverine terrain, the river crossings being preferred exits. During the drought of 2012/13 and as recently as February 2014, livestock forced their way into the Veterinary Cordon corridor and into Hobatere attracted by the only available grazing for vast distances; this has directly contributed to the outward movement of lions and the predation of livestock.

 

Are the animals found outside Hobatere still part of a pride within the Hobatere or have they established a viable population outside of the area, and if it is a viable population, how much movement takes place back into the area?

During years 1 and 2 of the HLRP, no lions were found outside of Hobatere for any length of time (SPOTS-pride spent 2 days outside of Hobatere, then returned) individuals, mostly males, were observed either along the western or northern boundaries, as well as in the Veterinary Cordon corridor but returned to Hobatere soon thereafter (reports of 2 male lions at the carcasses of 2 cattle on farmland close to Werda Village, 09.02); tracks indicate that the lions had returned to Hobatere by sunrise. We have no evidence to suggest that any lions in this area spend more than 36 hours at a time outside the protected areas of Hobatere and Etosha National Park.

 

Have the lions found within the Hobatere, established a viable population within the area and do they move between western Etosha and Hobatere?

The SPOTS-pride, comprising 2 adult females, 4 sub-Adults and 3 small cubs (8 months old), infrequently visited by one or more of the 2 'known' males, have successfully hunted and raised 4 cubs to above 12 months of age. There is no evidence of their movement into western ENP.

Lioness X1, her 4 sub-Adults (one sub-adult killed on farmland along Hobatere southern boundary) and two small cubs (born approx. September 2014) are intermittently seen at the Campsite Waterhole; there is no evidence of their movement into western ENP. However, the infrequent observations of the X1-pride at the Campsite Waterhole, suggests that this group moves back and forth between Hobatere and western ENP.

The collared male, Hpl-2 (Volkel) moves regularly between the Etosha National Park and Hobatere.

 

Determine whether the 'problem' lions found on a farmland are coming from western Etosha or from the Hobatere?

Observations by the CCCP Team, Werda farmers and MET rangers, suggest that lions move from western ENP and Hobatere at the Werda Veterinary Control Gate; however, the numbers and frequency of movement have not yet been determined. AfriCat has erected a fence enclosing the entire village of Werda in order to protect both humans and livestock, as the lions that have moved through this village have become habituated to the sound of generators, human voices, vehicles and spot-lights, showing little fear; this small community do not heed advice given by the MET, the Conservancy Committee nor AfriCat regarding the necessary protection of livestock, despite the presence of the MET-sponsored nocturnal kraal and the 2.3m fence surrounding this village. Reports from the Ehirovipuka Event Book (01 April 2013 - 28 February 2014) indicate that at Werda Village, five lions killed a horse and four lions killed 2 cows between 17.03-31.03.2103; tracks indicate that these lions came from Hobatere (report AfriCat Lion Guardian German Muzuma).

Since collaring Hpl-1 (Spots) in October 2013 she has only been involved in a single case of livestock predation. This occurred in June 2015 near the Werda Village. Her GPS position was noticed outside the Hobatere boundaries, within 2km of Werda. She moved out of Hobatere close to 01:00 AM and had returned to the park by 6:30 AM the same night. When the lion guardians inspected the place where she had spent the intervening time they found the carcass of a heifer which had clearly been eaten by lions. Tracks of more than one lion were seen re-entering Hobatere.

Since collaring Hpl-2 (Volkel) in October 2014 he has also only been involved in one instance of livestock perdation outside the protected areas. He also killed a cow near Werda, crossing the fence of the Etosha National Park approximately 2km north of Werda.

Other instances of livestock predation by lions and retaliation by people against the lions in the study area are summarised in the following table.

LIVESTOCK PREDATION LOCATION CONDITIONS LION MORTALITY LOCATION / METHOD
3 horses (Arisona) Hobatere Concession Area Livestock within protected ae None -
1 donkey foal (Arisona) Hobatere CA Livestock within protected ae None -
1 Brahman bull (Kamdescha) Hobatere CA Livestock within protected ae None -
3 cows (Arisona) Ombonde River, SW Hobatere,
Arisona Farm
Cattle not kraaled, roaming
widespread due to drought.
3 males (2 sub-adult
and one male)
Ombonde River / leg-hold
traps / shooting
3 'cattle' (Arisona / Palmfontein) Otjeombonde / Palmfontein,
Core Conservation AE
Cattle grazing within core
cons ae.
1 male Otjeombonde / Palmfontein
Core Conservation ae / poison
1 cow (scratched / missing)  Farm Arisona Livestock not kraaled. None -
1 cow West of Werda, along Hobatere
northern border
Livestock not kraaled. None -
1 cow North of Werda Livestock not kraaled. None -
4 cows Hobatere CA Livestock within protected area. None -
1 cow Sn boundary Kaross
(Farm Marienhoehe)
Livestock not kraaled. 1 lioness Leg-hold trap / shooting
1 calf Hobatere CA Livestock not kraaled, grazing
within protected area.
1 small cub Leg-hold trap / shooting /
clubbing
1 cow Farm Wildeck Livestock not kraaled. 1 sub-adult male Leg-hold trap / shooting
1 donkey + foetus North of Werda Donkey foaled alongside w Etosha
boundary fence.
2 lions reportedly
wounded, never found
Shot at lions on carcass
1 cow Orumaua, western boundary ENP Livestock not kraaled / lions exit
ENP through holes.
2 sub-adults Leg-hold trap / shooting
zebra kill Otjeombonde  Lion on carcass. 1 adult male, dysfunctional
collar
Shot by MET
Total: 24 livestock     Total: 10 lions  

 

What conservation strategies and mitigation methods can be implemented to protect these lions as well as reduce livestock loss?

Until the numbers and population dynamics of the so-called Hobatere lions have been established, the lion hunting quota should be put on hold; despite the fact that only 2 lions (one male and one female) were on quota 2013 for Thormaehlen & Cochrane Hunting Safaris and only one male lion for 2014, there is no research data yet available to establish whether or not this off-take is sustainable. Observations thus far indicate that only two males frequent the 2 waterholes, 2 females (Hpl-1 and T—l) have been resident since 27.10.2013 and two adult females (X1 and Hpl-7) may move back and forth between western ENP and Hobatere. At this point in time, two of the known lionesses have young cubs; should one of these lionesses be shot as a trophy, the cubs have little chance of survival. We do not know which of the three males is dominant, thus random off-take may remove the stronger male, leaving the weaker males as mates.

In order to establish greater tolerance of lions, their value to the conservancy member, farmer and child has to be established; for the farmer trying to survive along the Hobatere borders where the boundary fences are porous, lions move from a protected area onto farmland to kill their livestock and the 2013-2015 drought has not yet broken; a lion has no value unless there is proof that the Conservancy lions generate revenue.

With the development of two Photographic tourism ventures within the Hobatere Concession area, a. Campsite / Roadside Concession, (the 25 year Concession Agreement was signed on 04.11.2013), and b. the main Lodge Concession granted, the small number of known lions within Hobatere should be protected and regarded as high photographic tourism value; these lions will only become valuable to these communities once the revenue gained filters down to the individual.

Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation measures include:

1. Erecting strong, 2m high nocturnal kraals or repairing and upgrading existing kraals, for use when the lions are in the area: 16 kraals have been built in the Ehirovipuka and !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancies;

2. Re-instating herdsmen to take care of the livestock during the day whilst in the field;

3. Conservation Education, whereby the youth as well as the adult community member accept the lions’ role in a balanced ecosystem and understand the value as a sustainable tourist attraction.

 

The AfriCat 'Lion Guardian' Programme: these men monitor & report on lion whereabouts, encourage and guide farmers to adopt the AfriCat Livestock Protection programme, report incidents, patrol fences with Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET), monitor & report poaching and other illegal activities, identify priority villages for kraal-building and carry the message of Conservation from the highest authorities to the farmer. Essentially, these men are assigned to various areas (western boundary ENP, Otjokovare, Arisona farming community along the south-western border of Hobatere and Onguta, along the western border. These men play a vital role in protecting the Hobatere lions and mitigating lion-farmer conflict on communal farmland.

 

Do the lions leaving Hobatere fall into the categories of "occasional or habitual" stock raiders?

As far as can be ascertained through the monitoring of the SPOTS-pride and Hpl-2 (Volkel), these lions would be regarded as occasional stock-raiders. Further studies will establish the regularity of movement onto farmland.

 

Changes to the project plan requested for the third year of study.

Permission to use wild animals from the study area for bait We have found it far more difficult than anticipated to acquire bait for both darting and collaring attempts and baiting camera traps. Our initial plan was to source carcasses from hunting and culling operations on neighbouring farms as well as use the natural kills found in the study area. Buying meat is expensive, especially when at least half a carcass is needed to attract occupy a pride of lions for a darting operation. We have also found that when meat is purchased from hunters or butchers it is often gutted and skinned, despite our best efforts to ask for whole carcasses. Gutted and skinned carcasses are not as attractive to lions and make inferior bait especially when it has been excessively handled by people or stored in a freezer. We additionally have been advised by the Etosha ecological institute that the movement of meat into a protected area may pose a disease risk to the area.

 

Branding of study subjects.

We have found that after more than a year of camera-trap photography we still have difficulty identifying individual lions. The use of whisker spot patterns is a reliable method of identifying individuals but these patterns are not visible on almost all of the camera trap photos due to the lion being photographed at too great a distance or in poor light or due to camera blur. The only reliable identifications that we can make of lions from our camera-trap footage is from groups or collared individuals or those branded in previous studies. We therefore plan to mark our study subjects using a hot brand. This will be done following the guidelines of the Etosha Ecological Institute. Each brand mark would consist of an H symbol surrounded by either a vertical or horizontal line or V shape. These brands were chosen to represent the Hobatere lion research project and to resemble natural scars as closely as possible.

 

Aerial surveillance of study area.

When possible we would like permission to track the collared animals from the air by flying over the Hobatere concession and surrounding farmland with a light aircraft or gyrocopter.

 

Acknowledgments:

Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Etosha Ecological Institute, Ministry of Veterinary Services, Ehirovipuka & !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancies, Dr Sam Ferreira (Large Mammal Ecologist at SANParks, Kruger National Park), Dr. Adrian Tordiffe (Research Veterinarian, Department of Research & Scientific Services, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa).

hobatere sponsors 2015

 

 

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