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AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (AHLRP) Update 2016

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Background

In Africa, lions are mainly restricted to larger parks, reserves, and the remaining wilderness areas in savannas, covering no more than 20–25 % of their historic range (IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group 2006b; Riggio et al. 2012). Range collapse has been accompanied by plummeting lion numbers. Reliable population estimates for elusive, often nocturnal predators are notoriously difficult, but a variety of estimates converge at roughly 32,000 (Riggio et al. 2012). Rates of decline are alarming, as the number of African lions has fallen 30% over the past two decades (three lion generations) and perhaps by 48.5% since 1980 (IUCN 2012). Conflicts with people are overwhelmingly responsible for the range and population collapse of lions. Retaliatory killing in response to attacks on livestock and people (Patterson et al. 2004; Packer et al. 2005), native prey depletion through overgrazing and bushmeat harvest (Burton et al. 2011), and loss and fragmentation of habitat (Hunter et al. 2007; Kiffner et al. 2009; Riggio et al. 2012) are the most widely acknowledged causes of lion endangerment (IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group 2006b; pers. obs.).

 

Lion Conservation Units (LCU)

Conserving large predators with extensive, multinational ranges is an international enterprise requiring assessment, coordination, and prioritization. The Cat Specialist group of the World Conservation Union examined lion distribution and status in both West and Central Africa (2006a) and in Eastern and Southern Africa (2006b), modelling their approach on the successful hemispheric strategy for conserving jaguars, Panthera onca (Sanderson et al. 2002). They identified 66 areas in Eastern and Southern Africa that cover 61% of the lion’s known and possible range in the region. LCUs were not restricted to or based on protected areas, but many are associated with parks and reserves. Experts assessed viability, limiting factors, and threats for each of the LCUs, which are seen as management units for preserving lions in situ (IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group 2006b). This region of Africa is thought to support the vast majority of extant lions (Bauer and Van Der Merwe 2004), including all 10 "lion strongholds" (Riggio et al. 2012). Endangerment in African lions is typically direct, via survivorship, but theoretically there are genetic risks too (Bjo¨rklund 2003). Range collapse often produces small population size and, despite the lion’s impressive capacity for dispersal, a loss of genetic variability (O’Brien et al. 1987). Moreover, fencing parks and reserves to mitigate animal-human conflict interrupts natural patterns of migration and gene flow (Wildt et al. 1987; Hayward and Kerley 2009; Trinkel et al. 2011), which also reduces variability. Reduced genetic variation can have reproductive and other fitness consequences in lions and other large mammals. To safeguard species, it is critical to understand natural corridors to dispersal and gene flow and to identify instances where genetic continuity has been interrupted. Infectious diseases are also likely to move along these corridors.

Table 1: Lion Conservation Units (LCUs) evaluated in the study: Genetic perspectives on "Lion Conservation Units" in Eastern and Southern Africa
(I have purposefully only included the Units in Southern Africa)

LCU NAME AREA KM2 CATEGORY % GAZETTED POPULATION SIZE TREND
44 Etosha-Kunene 48889 I >50 315-595 Increasing
45  khaudum-Caprivi 23522 II 25-50 100-200 Stable
46 Okavango-Hwange 92323 I >50 2,300 Stable
48 Kgalagadi 149121  I >50 500-1000 Stable
49 Greater Limpopo 60957 I >50 >2,000 Increasing
50 Hluhluwe-Umfolozi 989 II >50 80 Stable

Stable Data mainly from IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group (2006b)

LCU categories are: I, viable; II, potentially viable; or III, significant but of doubtful viability. 'Percent gazetted' refers to the proportion under any form of legal protection (national park or reserve, hunting concession, or conservancy). Arial measurements obtained from metadata used in preparing the maps (www.panthera.org)

For the purpose of gathering evidence of long-distance movements by lions in Namibia, especially in this case, the natural dispersal from east (Etosha NP) to west (Kunene Region) and vice versa: A lion branded in Etosha National Park (#253) moved west to Kunene (also LCU 44); more generally, LCU 44 is clearly comprised of two genetically distinctive populations: the Kunene region and Etosha National Park (Genetic perspectives on "Lion Conservation Units" in Eastern and Southern Africa, J. M. Dubach • M. B. Briggs • P. A. White • B. A. Ament • B. D. Patterson).

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).

map1 lion distributionmap2 lion distribution

Map 1 (left): Lion (Panthera leo) distribution in Namibia, Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (2012)  Map 2 (right): AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project study site 2013-2016

 

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; however, data gathered during Phase 3 of the AHLRP (2015-2016) is able to show range and cross-border movement on ten lions. The extent of livestock loss and resultant lion mortality on adjacent farmland is sporadic; during Phase 3 of the HLRP, we were better equipped to report on incidents (see Table 7 Livestock Predation, ).

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:

a) 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."

b) "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."

c) Building Self-Reliance: "To build the capacity for all stakeholders to develop HWC management and mitigation plans and to implement appropriate mitigation methods."

d) 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 AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project in 2013.

 

Phase 1:

During Phase 1 (01 April 2013 – 31 March 2014, Permit # 1790/2013), this project

i) aimed to re-establish accurate current data on the demography of lions within Hobatere and the surrounding areas
ii) has provided initial data on the movement of lions into and out of Hobatere
iii) attempted to provide some of the driving forces which stimulate lions to move
iv) aimed to quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere
v) Mitigation measures were analysed and the effectiveness of each measure was assessed
vi) 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.

map3 hobatere

Map 3: The Hobatere Concession Area and Surrounds, including water points. Courtesy of Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Etosha Ecological Institute, 2014)


The distance between the Hobatere Lodge and Campsite (renamed Etosha Roadside) 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 also make use of waterholes within Etosha-west: (the distances after each water point indicate distance from the Campsite {Roadside} waterhole): 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), Renostervlei (approx. 27 km).

 

Phase 2:

During Phase 2 (01 July 2014 – 30 June 2015, Permit # 1938/2014), this project

i) aimed to re-establish accurate current data on the demography of lions within Hobatere and the surrounding areas: Lion population size and demography were evaluated through live observations and photographs taken by camera traps. The photographs taken by such cameras along with the information from the GPS-Satellite 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. It was concluded that trail cameras placed at the three functional Hobatere waterholes (Roadside {prev. Campsite}, Lodge and Tree House, (see Map 3,), three bait-sites (Roadside dam, Airfield site and Tree House) and one other road and game-trail site (Mine Road/Hunters Road Gorge), providing a reliable indication of the population in the area. Multiple trail cameras were placed at each waterhole, covering every angle from which lions could approach the water; a number of trail cameras were placed further away from the water but within 50 metres of the waterhole, providing effective coverage of lions passing by.

Observations from trail cameras compared favourably with live observation records. As far as could be established in year 2 (01 July 2014 - 30 June 2015), the following individuals were identified: 2 adult males, 4 adult females, 11 Sub-Adults + 5 cubs = 22 lion

 

ii) has provided initial data on the movement of lions into and out of Hobatere: All collared lions were 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 were 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 were described by plotting all the movement lines onto the same map.

 

iii) provided some of the driving forces which stimulate lions to move: Scientists expect Namibia's climate to continue to become hotter and drier, with a projected temperature increase of 3.6-10.8° F (2-6° C) by the end of this century. Lower and more variable rainfall is projected. And even if rainfall decreases only slightly from today's levels, evaporation typically increases as temperatures rise, so Namibia is likely to become even drier. As water becomes scarcer, the range and number of wildlife supported by Etosha and other national parks could decline.(Reid, H., L. Sahlén, J. MacGregor, and J. Stage. 2007. The economic impact of climate change in Namibia: How climate change will affect the contribution of Namibia's natural resources to its economy. Environmental Economics Program discussion paper 07-02. London: International Institute for Environment and Development. 

 

a) It was established that during the annual dry season (June-January), the man-made water points within the Hobatere Concession Area and in western Etosha clearly influence lion movement. Since the start of the AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (AHLRP) 2013, the study area has fallen within a below average rainfall region; it remains to be seen how movement may be affected once this region receives average to above-average rainfall;

b) prey-base availability and prey-base movement with regards to grazing and water: lions will follow herds of Hartmann’s Zebra and Oryx, moving across borders (park fences) from protected areas to livestock farming areas and back;

c) the illegal presence of large numbers of livestock (cattle and donkeys/horses) within the Hobatere Concession Area, habituate the lions to easy prey, often following these herds out of protected areas onto adjacent farmland, causing conflict;

d) the presence of intermittent culling (hunting) teams within Hobatere, caused lions to move outwards onto farmland;

 

iv) aimed to quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere: Farmer-Lion Conflict along the borders of protected areas remains a challenge as Etosha NP and this protected area’s fences are porous, allowing back and forth movement of wildlife as well as livestock. AfriCat’s Livestock Protection Programmes offer support and guidance concerning livestock management, animal husbandry and improved protection methods; AfriCat has built 16 nocturnal, livestock kraals on communal farmland along the western Etosha and Hobatere borders, reducing livestock losses when farmers abide by the concept of herding; if domestic stock are left to graze at night, the AfriCat Lion Guards have difficulty protecting the said livestock from attack and losses to lions and hyaenas are inevitable. 2014-2015, reported livestock losses to lions totalled 24, with the loss of 10 lions. The continued drought has resulted in large numbers of livestock dying of hunger and thirst, coupled with increased losses to lions.

 

v) Mitigation measures were analysed and the effectiveness of each measure was assessed:
a) farmers in the lion-conflict zone or 'hot-spots' along the borders of Etosha and protected areas, reported the effectiveness of livestock kraals and the reduced loss of livestock;
b) the GPS-Satellite collar, early-warning system effectively provided reliable information as to lion locations, but many farmers failed to heed the warnings and in some instances, the ineffective communication system (intermittent mobile phone reception), failed to convey the warning in time.

 

vi) 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: the proposed AfriCat livestock protection methods are effective if heeded by the farmers but the continued drought (year 3) has minimised the farmers’ willingness to accept change and advice. The need for better guidance by traditional and conservancy leaders, intensified by the absence of support from departments of Agriculture and Veterinary Services, has left farmers to their own devices, which exclude taking precautions against potential threat by conflict wildlife.

Phase 2 of the AHLRP was 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.

map4 africat north activity map

Map 4: AfriCat North Activity Map 2013-2015

 

Phase 3: 01 July 2015 – 30 June 2016 {Report up to and including 29.02.2016}

Map 5 (below): AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project Study Site (darkened area), Phases 1-3; Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west (west of vertical line: Restricted Area), the Communal Conservancies of Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka & !Khoa di //Hoas, Etendeka + Palmwag Concession Areas and Free-hold farmland, southern boundary Etosha National Park

map5 study site

Key Questions / Hypotheses tested

1. Lion demography and population dynamics within the 34 000 ha Hobatere Concession Area and Etosha-west, including the extended study site of the Omatendeka Concession

For the purpose of this AHLRP report, the Etosha-west boundaries are defined as follows: i) western Etosha boundary fence from the south-western corner of the Kaross Block to the north-western corner (Omatambo Maue), ii) eastwards to Nomab Waterhole, including the iii) Dolomite Range, iv) Etosha southern boundary from farm Grenswag to Blyerus, and v) the Kaross Block

 

1.1. Lion Density & Population size

Between April 2011 and May 2013, no known lion monitoring and / or research took place in the 34 000 hectare Hobatere Concession Area; the AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (hereafter AHLRP) was initiated May 2013, with no previous data on lion numbers available.

During Phase 1 (2013-2014), in order to establish lion presence, camera traps were strategically placed at the two functional waterholes within the Hobatere Concession Area (Hobatere North Lodge + Etosha Roadside {previously Hobatere campsite}); when more cameras 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 initial identification and basic structure of the groups inhabiting the 34 000 ha Concession. During Phase 2, (2014 – 2015), one additional waterhole in Hobatere North (Tree House) became functional. By approximately mid-2014, the lions had calmed down somewhat, enabling digital photographs and sightings. Phase 3, (2015 – 2016), a total of 15 trail cameras were deployed within the 34 000 ha study site: constant sites included 3 waterholes, the Mine Road, the Hunters’ Road Gorge, Campsite(Roadside) bait, Tree House and Airfield bait-sites. Two-Four additional trail cameras were intermittently utilised at kill sites, fence-breaks, livestock kraals, wildlife-trails and at one den-site.

 

i) May 2013: the Hobatere Campsite (recently renamed Etosha Roadside) waterhole: 1 adult female (brand-mark X1) and 5 small cubs, approx. 7 months of age (estimated month of birth October 2012);

ii) September 2013: the Hobatere Lodge (recently renamed Hobatere North) waterhole: 2 adult males, 2 adult females and four small cubs (females), two approximately 3 months of age (estimated month of birth June 2013) and two approximately 9 months old (estimated month of birth December 2012);

iii) 2014, Etosha Roadside waterhole: an additional adult female was observed with 3 large cubs (1 male + 2 females), often in the company of lioness X1 and her 5 cubs (1 male + 4 females);

iv) October 2014, Hobatere North: + 3 small cubs (1 male + 2 females);

v) 2015 January, Etosha Roadside waterhole: X1 + 1 small cub; (2 cubs in total, one cub trapped/killed 2015)

vi) 2013-2016: 2 territorial males frequenting Hobatere North, Etosha Roadside and Etosha-west

vii) 2015 September, Hobatere North: + 2 unknown, young males

viii) 2016 February, Hobatere North: + 2 small cubs (sexes unknown)

ix) Feb 2016: estimated total number of known lions Hobatere North: 9

x) Feb 2016: estimated total number of known lions Etosha Roadside: 12

xi) Feb 2016: estimated total number of known territorial adult males: 2

xii) Feb 2016: Omatendeka lions collared by AfriCat: 2 males + 1 female

 

Table 2: Known lions of the Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west and Omatendeka Conservancy: May 2013 - February 2016

STUDY AREA APPROX 300KM2
Number marked / collared lions 10 (including 3 lions, Omatendeka Conservancy)
Number known, unmarked lions 17
Age Groups / Sex

Adult female: 5 (incl. 1 female, Omatendeka Conservancy)
Adult male: 4 (incl. 2 males, Omatendeka Conservancy)
Sub-adult female: 8
Sub-adult male: 4
Large cubs (approx. 18 months): 4
Small cubs (born approx. Jan 2016): 2

Total: 27

Known Mortalities 1 cub /2 sub-adult females

 

1.1.1. Summary of Lion Density and Population Size in Hobatere, Etosha-west and extended study area.

Phase 3: 01 July 2015 – 30 June 2016 {Report up to and including 29.02. 2016}

i) Introduction

Known Females: Hobatere Concession and Etosha-west (4 Adults)

The two loosely-associated prides, Hobatere North and Etosha Roadside, identified in Phase 2 (2014-2015), remain resident within the Hobatere Concession, with some cross-border movement onto communal farmland to the south, west and north as well as into Kaross Block and Etosha-west. As far as can be ascertained (sightings, camera trap footage and reports), the prides still comprise two adult lionesses each and their offspring. Neither pride has a resident male.

The Hobatere North Pride (SPOTS-Pride) comprises nine lions (8 females + 1 male): two lionesses, presumed to be mother (Hpl-11) and daughter (Hpl-1 -SPOTS) and their offspring. Hpl-11’s defunct VHF collar was replaced by a VHF-Satellite collar (22.02.2016). She has raised two females (born approximately July - August 2013) to the age of 2 yrs 6 months, at the time of writing; February 2016: one of Hpl-11’s sub-adult daughters seen with two very small cubs. Hpl-1, was first collared on 27.10.2013 at Hobatere Lodge waterhole, the collar was replaced on 23.09.2014 and on 29.01.2016, at the Hobatere Airfield bait-site. She has raised two females (estimated born October-December 2012) to the age of 3 yrs and 2 months and three younger cubs (born approx. 03.10.2014), at the time of writing. Hpl-1 has been seen with one male, possibly Hpl-6 (prior to his collaring, June 2015). The two lionesses and their offspring spend time together as a pride but are often separate.

The territorial males Hpl 2 and Hpl-6 are occasionally seen with this pride but are not resident.

The Etosha Roadside (prev. Hobatere Campsite) Pride remains at two adult lionesses, probably mother (brand-mark X1, no collar) and daughter (Hpl-7-Liluli) and their offspring. X1 raised five cubs (born approximately in October-December 2012) to the end of Phase 1 (2013-2014); camera trap visuals show that three offspring, one male and two females, survived to the end of Phase 2 (June 2015); two un-marked sub-adult females were trapped/shot on communal farmland along the Hobatere southern boundary, January-March 2015, camera track visuals indicate that they belonged to this group; X1 was seen with two young cubs during the second half of 2014 (born approximately September 2014); by the end of Phase 2, only one of the two cubs had survived, one cub trapped/shot on communal farmland along the Hobatere southern boundary, January-March 2015.

The younger lioness (Hpl 7 – Liluli) has raised one male and two females (born approx. first half 2014) to the end of Phase 2; she was immobilised and fitted with a GPS-Satellite collar on 08.06.2015. Camera trap footage indicates that both X1 and Hpl-7 were lactating during December 2015. The two lionesses and their cubs form a closely bonded pride.

The territorial males Hpl 2 and Hpl-6 are occasionally seen with this pride but are not resident for more than 12-36 hours at one time.

 

Known Males: Hobatere Concession and Etosha-west (3 Adults )

The two known, territorial adult males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, (est. 6-7 yrs of age) were first collared on free-hold farmland along Etosha’s southern boundary, March 2012, and returned to Etosha (relocated to Duineveld); initially three siblings, only two found their way onto the Hobatere Concession and have since established their dominance of the area, including Hobatere, Etosha-west (west of the Dolomite Range, with Renostervlei their northernmost point) and Kaross Block. Hpl-2 was re-collared using a GPS-Satellite unit, October 2014; Hpl-6 lost his initial VHF-collar and was re-collared using a GPS-Satellite unit, June 2015; he is the presumed father of the four sub-adult females and the three young cubs of the Hobatere North Pride. It is uncertain whether he fathered the cubs of the Etosha Roadside Pride (prev. Hobatere Campsite). Whilst Hpl-6 was immobilised, we discovered a serious injury to his lower right jaw, probably a kick by zebra, giraffe or such-like; his condition has remained stable but since this injury he seems to have relinquished dominance to his brother, Hpl-2. These males spend a large percentage of their time together and do not remain with either of the two prides for longer than 12-36 hours.

A young male, Hpl-9, (est. 4-5 yrs) was first seen (trail camera footage) on free-hold farmland, together with two unknown females (one Adult + one sub-Adult), during July 2015; they remained on farmland until the male (Hpl-9) and the sub-adult female (est. 2-3 yrs) were immobilised on farm Blyerus and returned to Etosha-west (Nomab water-point, approx. 60 km from darting location). The male was collared but the female seemed too slight so only Morphometric data was noted and biological samples taken. Hpl-9 crossed the border onto free-hold farmland within 3 days after his first relocation, returning to his core home range on day 14. He was recaptured and taken to Sonderkop in Etosha-west from where he returned to farmland within 7 days; after 23 days trapped on farmland behind electric fencing (farms Ermo & Robyn), Hpl-9 was collared for a third time (23.10.2015) and transported approx. 360 km eastwards to Goas waterhole near Halali, in Etosha. Since his third relocation, he has mostly remained within the Park boundaries, occasionally crossing onto farmland and wildlife reserves along the southern boundary, returning to Etosha-west on 31 December, where he has settled south-east of the Dolomite Range. The young female was not seen again after the first relocation.

 

Two newcomers to Hobatere
Hpl-10 + one male (possibly brother)

September 2015 marked the arrival of two young males to Hobatere North; approx. 3-4 yrs of age, these males spend a large portion of their time with the SPOTS-Pride. The sub-dominant male was collared 15.12.2015 at Tree House waterhole, Hobatere North. One or both males have been observed mating with two of the SPOTS-Pride sub-adult females; we suspect that the small cubs born approx. January 2016, were fathered by one of these males.

The territorial males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, still dominate the Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west and Kaross Block, with the younger males leaving the area when the territorial males arrive.


The Omatendeka Lions
The Etendeka Concession, Omatendeka Conservancy

Hpl 3, a male, collared on 27.05.2015, remains elusive and spends most of his time in the Obab River area, Palmwag Concession. The one female, Hpl- 4 and the second male, Hpl-5, were collared 28.05.2015, form a loosely-associated pair, with Hpl-4 part of pride comprising 2-3 females. Hpl-4’s range includes the Gaes, Kawaxab and Barap river systems as well as the Etendeka Concession Area. Hpl-5’s range extends to approx. 30 km north of the Etendeka Mountain Lodge, within the Etendeka Concession, including the Gaes, Kawaxab and Uniab river systems, occasionally moving eastwards, once visiting the Klip River in the Grootberg Range.

 

Section2:

ii) Total Collared / Marked Individuals (2013 – 2016)
Detailed Information and data collected Morphometric: Ten collared lions and one un-collared lion

i) Total Collared / Marked Individuals (2013-2016)

Study site: Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west + Omatendeka Conservancy

2013: one adult female, Hpl-1; 2014: Hpl-1 collar replaced + one adult male, Hpl-2; 2015: Hpl-2 damaged collar replaced, 2 adult females Hpl-4 + Hpl-7, three adult males, Hpl-3, Hpl-5 + Hpl-6, two young males Hpl-9 + Hpl-10; 2016: one adult female, Hpl-11 + Hpl-1 collar replaced; Hpl-12 brand-mark only (X1), pers comm. Dayne Braine, 2007.

ID NAME GENDER COLLARING LOCATION DATE COLLARED COLLAR ID / BRAND MARK
Hpl-1 Spots F Hobatere  North
1. Lodge waterhole
2.Airfield Bait Station
3 Airfield Bait station
1. 23.09.2013
2. 22.09.2014
3. 29.01.2016
1. AWT 571
2. AWT 1334
3. AWT 1804
Hpl-2 Volkel M 1. Hobatere, Airfield Bait station
2. Western ENP, Renostervlei waterhole
1. 04.10.2014
2. 03.05.2015
1. AWT 1336
2. AWT 1651
Hpl-3 Gaob-Hampton M Etendeka, Omatendeka Conservancy 27.05.2015 AWT 1541 
Hpl-4 Muna F Etendeka, Omatendeka Conservancy 28.05.2015  AWT 1540 
Hpl-5 Tara M Etendeka, Omatendeka Conservancy 28.05.2015 AWT 1539
Hpl-6 Masialeti M Etosha Roadside (Hobatere Campsite) 07.06.2015  Telonics 677415A 
Hpl-7 Liluli F Etosha Roadside (Hobatere Campsite) 08.06.2015  AWT 1335
Hpl-8 No collar F Farm Blyerus 17.08.2015  No collar
Hpl-9 Mansa M 1. Farm Blyerus
2. Farm Ekongo-Kaross
3. Farm Robyn
1. 17.08.2015 
2. 28.09.2015
3. 18.10.2015
Telonics 679046A
Hpl-10 Leo M Hobatere North, Tree House 15.12.2015  Telonics 679047A
Hpl-11 Meebelo
F Hobatere North, Termite Plains bait station 22.02.2106  AWT 1885
Brandmark T-4
Hpl-12 Moola (X1) F No immobilsation 2007  Brand mark X1 (2007, Hobatere Lodge)

 

Phase 3: Collared Individuals: Detailed information and data collected

01 July 2015 – 30 June 2016 {Report up to and including 29.02.2016):

a) Collared Males

In addition to the sibling males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, that move between Hobatere Concession and Etosha-west and Hpl-3 + Hpl-5 collared in the Omatendeka Conservancy (reported in Phase 2: 2014-2015), three more males have been identified, 2 of which were collared:

Hpl-9: located and collared on free-hold farmland 17.08.2015 (farm Byerus # 628); during July and August, until approx. one week prior to the time of darting, this young male was in the company of one adult and one sub-adult female (pers comm. W. Mare, farm Arendsnes, trail camera footage). The AfriCat trail camera footage identified one young female (visual 1,p14) and one young male (visual 2,p14); from observations, it seemed that the female was in oestrus. Farmers on Arendsnes, Blyerus and Voorspoed (Map 4,p7)claimed to have lost 2 cows, one weaner, one calf and one goat to the three lions. AfriCat requested permission from MET Etosha-west to return the lions to Etosha; according to farmer reports, these lions moved from the Etosha-Kaross block onto adjacent farmland.

Hpl-9: The following report includes general information and data collected on the three relocations undertaken by AfriCat; the report shows that factors influencing lion movement from Etosha NP onto adjacent farmland may be due to one of the following or a combination thereof:

a) Porous boundary fence between Etosha and farmland and Hobatere Concession Area and farmland (farmland = communal and free-hold, adjacent to these protected areas);

b) Farmers generally DO NOT kraal their livestock at night, rendering them vulnerable to predation and theft/poaching;

c) Female groups and hunting / prey preference: the AHLRP studies (June 2013- Feb 2016), have shown that the small 'prides' (2-4 adult females) are comprised of loosely grouped females and their offspring, lacking resident pride males;
Reasons for females hunting on farmland adjacent to ENP:
i) easier hunt either prior to giving birth or when cubs are small,
ii) the 'easy' prey syndrome continues when solitary mothers are under pressure to hunt more for increased sub-Adult needs (female X1 raised 5 cubs to at least 2.5 yrs mostly on her own), especially when livestock are weak, graze close to the Etosha/Hobatere fence or have become habituated to herds of livestock grazing (illegally) within the protected area (a regular occurrence in Hobatere and infrequently in Kaross Block since 2014, increasing in 2015);
iii) neighbouring free-hold farmers create baiting-stations mainly to attract spotted hyaena (acc to farmer reports), attracting lions as well (Hpl-2+Hpl-6 attempt return to old and new baiting stations on free-hold farm along southern boundary);
iv) cubs and sub-adults take on the habit to climb through fences / kill livestock from their mothers, possibly continuing into adult-hood

d) Males, especially sub-Adult males,
i) may become habituated when young, follow mother (female 'easy' prey syndrome), leaving the protected areas and / or kill livestock;
ii) resort to 'easy' prey when ousted from their natal pride;
iii) follow female in oestrus that may leave a protected area to hunt on adjacent farmland;
iv) become habituated to killing livestock when herds (illegally) graze inside protected areas.

visual1 unknown female lion visual1 unknown male lion

Visual 1 (left): unknown female (capture ID Hpl-8), Visual 2 (right): unknown male (capture ID Hpl-9); (camera trap photographs showed them together with an adult female (pers comm. W.Mare, farm Arendsnes)

 

Immobilization # 1 (17.08.2015): farm Blyerus, free-hold farmland, southern boundary Etosha NP.

17.08.2015: at 22h42, the female (Hpl-8), estimated 2-3 years of age, was anaesthetised on a zebra carcass kindly donated by MET Etosha-west; upon examination, she was smaller than we anticipated, with a thin neck, hence the decision not to fit the collar. A GPS-Satellite collar battery life expectancy ranges from 18-22 months, depending on the number of programmed uploads and downloads and should her neck width increase rapidly within that time, it could present a health risk; the greatest danger posed is collar dysfunction, with no way to monitor the animal’s well-being.

The male (Hpl-9) was anaesthetised at 23h05. Once the immobilised animal is stable, it is our policy to fit the collar first, before continuing with examinations and sample collection; should problems arise and the animal’s well-being is at risk, the reversal would be administered regardless, with the already fitted GPS-Satellite collar providing means to further monitor its health and movements. Blood, whiskers and faeces samples were taken, body measurements noted and vital signs monitored; this male weighed 244 kg, presenting an excellent body condition and general good health.

An interesting discovery was evidence of the Feline Papilloma virus on the underside of Hpl-9’s tongue.
(see explanation, Visual 8)
Permitted and accompanied by MET, both lions were loaded onto one of the AfriCat vehicles and relocated to Nomab Waterhole in Etosha-west, approx. 130 km from darting location. Reversal was given at 06h04 on 18.08.2015, after 7 hours of anaesthesia. The AfriCat Team observed his full recovery: Hpl-9 joined Hpl-8 (un-collared female), walked to the waterhole where he drank (approx. 15 minutes), before both lions walked off in a southerly direction, towards a herd of grazing zebra.

lion
Visual 3: Hpl-9 Whisker-spot pattern, left side
lion
Visual 4: Hpl-9 Whisker-spot pattern, right side
lion
Visual 5: Canines Hpl-9
lion
Visual 6: (right) Hpl-9 Latero-medial pad
lion
Visual 7 (left): Nose colouration & whisker-spot
pattern; Hpl-9 estimated age 3-4 years, but %
colouration provides no definitive evidence of
age determination.
 

Age determination among free-ranging lions is complex, and is perhaps most reliably approximated by dental characteristics such as determination of incremental cementum line counts for canine root sections (Smuts et al., 1978). A diversity of other measures has also been used, including tooth wear and loss, tooth discolouration, skull and mandible measurements, etc. (Smuts et al., 1978). The reliability of such techniques has not been assessed across environments and populations, and these methods have limited applicability in determining the age of lions while they are alive. Whitman et al. (2004) proposed a means of aging live lions based on nose colour, suggested the simple ‘rule of thumb’ that a lion whose nose is 50% black is estimated to be ≥5 years old; Based on two different methods of analysis (one visual, one computerized), the authors conclude that there exists no reliable correlation between nose colour and age in the study population of lions in northern Botswana; given the diversity of nose colours noted among lions of all ages, a specific and age-dependent schedule of nose darkening is not applicable to lions pan-Africa. (ref. p59: Nicholls, K. Ward, J.L. & Kat P.W. African lion trophy hunting policy cannot be based on a site-specific model).

visual8 lion tongue

Visual 8 (left): Tongue Papillomas, ventral surface, 2 x 2mm diameter, adjacent to each other.

 

Papilloma viruses (PVs) are highly species- and site-specific pathogens; studies suggest that at least eight different cat papilloma viruses infect the oral cavity of Asian lion, Panthera leo, snow leopard, bobcat, Florida panther, clouded leopard and domestic cat, or skin, found on domestic cat and snow leopard. This asymptomatic infection suggests that cattle (bovine) are the reservoir host of this PV; test results suggest FeSarPV can cause disease in multiple felids and it appears the exposure of the lions to bovine skin may have predisposed to sarcoid development.


African lions frequently fight during feeding, commonly resulting in wounds around the oral cavity and face. Contamination of these wounds by FeSarPV from bovine skin during feeding could explain the predominant perioral mucocutaneous location of the sarcoids in these African lions. However, as multiple lions within prides were affected, transmission between individuals of the same pride by direct contact, for example mutual grooming, cannot be ruled out. Additionally, as male lions often feed first in both captive and wild situations, this behaviour may explain why only male lions were affected in this case. 

 

General

Hpl-9 returned to free-hold farmland approx 36-48 hours after waking at Nomob waterhole, crossing the Etosha NP southern boundary onto Grenswag farm during the night of 19.08.2015. The GPS-Satellite collar was programmed to 2-hourly downloads and the AfriCat team were able to monitor his movements, providing an early-warning system for farmers along his route. AfriCat requested all farmers to provide information, especially sightings and any sign of prey.

Hpl-9 Route 18.08 – 29.09.2015 (refer to Map 6)

Day 1 – 19/08: in Etosha, moved in a southerly direction, approx. 13 km;

Day 2 - 20/08: continued moving in a southerly direction, covered 18km, exit Etosha onto free-hold farm Vlakwater; continued southward through the property onto farm Elandslaagte;

Day 3 – 21/08: early morning, moved north-eastwards onto farm Kronendal for approx. 1-2hrs, continued northwards onto farm Brakpan (approx.1-2hrs), and farm Grenswag (bordering southern ENP), remained there overnight;

Day 4 – 22/08: After heading 3.5 km north to a waterhole in farm Grenswag, (approx.8 hrs at waterhole), he returned southwards to farm Brakpan;

Day 5 – 23/08: continuing southwards, through farms Brakpan, onto Nirwana (approx. 6hrs), Babelsberg (approx. 2-3hrs), returning to farm Nirwana (approx. 15 km journey);

Day 6 – 24/08: travelling southwards, he crossed the farms Nirwana / Moedoorwin boundary fence at midnight, remaining on the fence-line for the entire day; he did not move more than 500m, remaining between the two fences; possible kill site, but no livestock-kill report;

Day 7 – 25/08: remained on farm Nirwana for approx. 45 minutes, returned to farm Moedoorwin for the rest of the day and night;

Day 8 – 26/08: moved southwards from farm Moedoorwin onto farm Die Vlakte, remained approx. 2/3 hours, then onto farm Stilte for approx. 8 hrs, after which he moved westwards onto farm Louwsville;

Day 9 – 26/08: remained on farm Stilte for day 9;

Days 10 – 14: 27-31/08: moved in a westerly direction onto farms Stilte, Kamanjab Noordt, Welvaart and Sonnegroet, returning to Welvaart and Kamanjab Noord, then northwards to Weissbrunn, Gelbingen and Voorspoed. On day 14, he returned to farm Blyerus, where he had been immobilized / collared;

Days 15 – 22: 01-08/09: Hpl-9 spent 1 – 3 days in the southern hills of farm Blyerus, his roars could be heard most evenings; we then realised that the female Hpl-8, was not with him. For three days after Hpl-9 and Hpl-8 had been returned to Etosha, the older female was heard roaring closer to the Kaross Block border, seemingly trying to locate the missing 'daughter' and young male (Hpl-9). For the next week, Hpl-9 made daily forays onto neighbouring farms Wilhelmsville and Arendsnes, slowly moving towards the Kaross Block, from whence he reportedly came. (Wilhelmsville owners make extensive use of poison to control spotted hyaena numbers, which Hpl-9 survived).

21 days (09.09.) after his relocation, Hpl-9 returned to Kaross Block, remaining along the Kaross eastern border, not venturing deeper and further west into Kaross Block. Realising that he may be staying out of Hpl-2 + Hpl-6’s range, which includes the Kaross Block, the AfriCat Team planned to patrol the Kaross Block southern boundary, to encourage him to move further northwards, out of Kaross Block into Etosha-west. Despite GPS waypoints in close proximity, we are not sure whether Hpl-9 met up with the territorial males, but at approx. 22h00 on 10.09., Hpl-9 jumped through the Kaross boundary fence, breaking 2 wooden poles, heading back to farms Arendsnes and Blyerus (11.09); his tracks indicated that he was moving fast.

 

During the following weeks leading up to his second capture on 29.09., Hpl-9 remained within one or two farms from his 'core' area, farms Arendsnes and Blyerus; during this time, no livestock were reported killed, only kudu and zebra carcasses could be found at the GPS location clusters; the farmers were notified when Hpl-9 ventured onto their properties, in most cases indicating interest instead of intolerance. On 21.09, Hpl-9 unexpectedly and hurriedly moved eastwards onto the game-farm Ekongo-Kaross (Hazeldene); regarding this as a safe-area due to the lack of livestock, we were surprised when the owner called to inform us of his intention to declare Hpl-9 a 'problem animal', as he had 'stolen' two warthog carcasses as well as a haunch of wildebeest, intended as bait for a leopard. Trophy hunters were in their 'hide-outs' in-wait for leopard when they observed Hpl-9 come in to take the bait; the farmer also feared for his plains zebra.

Permission was granted by Director of Parks & Wildlife, Mr Colgar Sikopo, to relocate Hpl-9 to Sonderkop waterhole, approx. 130 km by road, and approx. 75km from Ekongo-Kaross (straight line). On 29.09, forty-three days after his first relocation, Hpl-9 was darted on farm Ekongo-Kaross and removed by road to Sonderkop; at 06h00 on the morning of 30.09., Hpl-9 walked off into the unknown for the second time.

Footnote: during his travels from drop-off at Nomab waterhole to his second capture, Hpl-9 did not move more than 100m between 06h00 and 22h00, and did not spend more than 12 hours on one farm.

map6 study site

Map 6 (above): Hpl-9 Route from Nomab waterhole on 18.08.2015, to his re-capture on 29.09.2015, on free-hold farmland.

 

Immobilization # 2 (29.09.2015): farm Ekongo-Kaross (Hazeldene), free-hold farmland (game farm), southern boundary Etosha NP

Route 30.09. – 22.10.2015

The re-capture of Hpl-9 on 29.09., took place at a familiar water-point (Ekongo {Hazeldene} dam) and close to the leopard baiting-station, where a week prior, he had taken one of the warthog carcasses from the baiting-table; a zebra carcass was donated by MET Etosha-west (this time, two police officers accompanied Mr Gottfried Apollus of MET Etosha-west), strategically placed for optimal darting in the full moonlight. Typically, Hpl-9 began moving off the mountain at approx. 22h00 (monitored via VHF telemetry tracking, no GPS-Satellite downloads possible), rapidly walked in to the carcass by 23h00, indicating his state of hunger; by midnight, Hpl-9 was loaded and en-route to Sonderkop, approx. 65 kms further east of Nomab waterhole, a low density lion area; he woke from the anaesthesia at approx. 06h30 on 30.09., spending two days in the immediate area, probably in search of water and prey. 7 days later, Hpl-9 crossed the Etosha southern boundary into the farm Pionier; despite early warnings of his pending approach, the fence-lines remained porous and easy to climb through. Moving from Pionier onto the neighbouring farms Robyn & Ermo, Hpl-9 became trapped behind the electrified boundary fences with Etosha; it became clear that he was looking for a way out (see red line on said farms below). No livestock were killed during that time, but with no exit back into Etosha, this made for a potentially threatening situation.

Map 7 (below): indicating Hpl-9 movement from Sonderkop on 30.09.2015, his exit onto farm Pionier 07.10., and his movements trapped behind electrified boundary fences with Etosha, until his 3rd immobilization on 22.10.2015., on farm Robyn.

map7 study site

 

Immobilization # 3 (22.10.2015): Farm Robyn, free-hold farmland, southern boundary Etosha NP

22.10.: After fifteen days trapped on farms Ermo & Robyn, MET Etosha-west provided zebra-bait to the darting location on farm Robyn; his 3rd and final destination had been arranged for Goas waterhole, near Halali, approx. 360 km further east. After approx. 8 hours under anaesthesia, Hpl-9 stood up to drink within 30 minutes of administering the reversal, at 06h35 on 23.10.2015.

Map 8 (below): the straight, brown line indicates the vehicle trip from farm Robyn to Goas waterhole along the Etosha Salt Pan (22-23.10); Hpl-9’s movements continue northwards onto the Pan, then southwards to approx. 17 km from Etosha’s southern boundary, on 31.10.

map8 study site

 

Map 9 (below): indicates Hpl-9’s movements during November 2015, showing his exit 10.11., onto Ongava Game Reserve (block along southern boundary Etosha, bottom left), where he remained until 20.12.2015, before returning to Etosha NP through Ongava’s north-western corner (see Map 10)

map9 study site

 

 map10 lions

Map 10 (above): indicates Hpl-9’s movements from 20.12 – 31.12.

map11 lions

Map 11 (above): indicating Hpl-9’s movements during January & February 2016 (Map 12 below); Hpl-9 returns 'home' on 31.12.2015 - 01.01.2016, when he crossed into Etosha-west {so-called 'Restricted Area', see vertical red line}.

map 12 lions

Map 12

 

10.02. (approx. 3.5 months since his relocation to Goas waterhole near Halali, on 23.10.2105), Hpl-9 commences the back and forth movements furthest west against farms Vlakwater, Helaas, Pionier, Robyn (darting location # 3 on 22.10.2015) and Ermo (to a lesser degree).

Footnote: Vlakwater + approx. 8 farms eastwards form part of the Etosha Heights Reserve, where approx. 10 Etosha lions have settled; Hpl-9 moves in and out of this area irregularly. AfriCat regularly warns the farmers on Helaas westwards, of Hpl-9’s location. The Pionier fence-line has been upgraded and Veterinary Services has strengthened the Helaas fence.

 

Phase 3: Collared Individuals

Collared Males, continued

1. Hpl-10: Two unknown, young males were first seen on 30.09.2015, at the Hobatere North Lodge waterhole; they were in the company of Hpl-11 and one of her sub-adult daughters, the latter obviously in oestrus. The two males were intermittently observed in the Hobatere Concession Area, at times solitary or with the sub-adult female in visual below.

visual9 a lionsvisual9 b lions 

Visual 9 (above): two unknown, young males (first sighting 30.09.2015), with sub-adult female (right), in oestrus (one of Hpl-11’s two daughters, born approx. June 2013). This female was briefly seen with 2 small cubs (approx. 2 months old), on 23.02.2016; the larger, dominant male probably the father of the cubs.

 

Immobilization Hpl-10

Since the two males were first observed at the Hobatere North Lodge waterhole on 30 September, 2015, it was evident that the presence of these newcomers had changed the status quo within Hobatere North: 02.10.: at approx. 06h30, raucous roaring was heard at the Lodge airfield (approx. 500 m from the waterhole); Hpl-1 and possibly her sub-adult daughters had killed a zebra at the Lodge waterhole, where both territorial males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, were observed at the carcass, but soon disappeared towards the Hobatere airfield further east; soon thereafter, Hpl-1 displayed nervous behaviour whilst her 12 month-old cubs were feeding at the zebra carcass and it seemed that she was torn between protecting her young cubs or running off towards her two sub-adult daughters that were keenly interested in the airfield activity, where the two newcomer males and the two territorial males were at a stand-off; the following day, GPS waypoints showed that Hpl-1 had left the Lodge area and moved northwards into the plains.

For the next 2 months, until her oestrus and encounter with the newcomer males (approx. 12-15.12.), Hpl-1 and her young cubs remained elusive, spending more time than before outside of Hobatere (to the west) on adjacent communal farmland, also moving into northern and north-eastern Hobatere. Hpl-1 had taken a new route and extended her range; we assumed that she regarded the two new males as a threat to her cubs’ survival. She also spent time at her October 2014 den-site, approx. 8 km north-east of the Lodge waterhole. Towards the end of October, Tree House trail camera visuals revealed that Hpl-1 and her cubs may have unexpectedly encountered the newcomer males and that her young male cub may have been killed, as no photographs or sightings of the male cub were recorded between 26.10. - 05.12.2015; thereafter, he was once again seen with his siblings, in good health (as Hpl-1 intermittently visited her old den-site during that time, we surmise that one or more of Hpl-1’s sub-adult daughters may have taken care of him at the den-site, out of harms way). During the same time, Hpl-1 & Hpl-11’s four sub-adult females went 'missing', and were not seen with their mothers or in their regular groups. Camera trap visuals provided evidence that the young females had joined these males (at least intermittently) and we were worried as to their safety, should the males leave Hobatere onto adjacent farmland; hence the decision to collar at least one of the males by year-end.

15.12.2015: Hpl-1 seen with the two young males at Tree House waterhole, Hpl-1 obviously in oestrus; the slightly smaller male with less mane attempted dominance, the larger brother lay further away, disinterested. The dart hit home at 16h55, the recommended biological samples and body measurements were taken (see Morphometric Tables 4, 5+6, p34/35). Hpl-10 weighed 213 kg, his body in condition excellent.

visual10 whiskers
Visual 10: Hpl-10 whisker-spots, left side
visual11 teeth
Visual 11: Hpl-10 healthy dentition
visual12 paw
Visual 12: latero-medial measurements of
paw pad
visual13 ear
Visual 13: superficial injury to left ear 
(probable fighting), and view of fitted 
Telonics collar.
   

visual14 a trail cameravisual14 b trail camera

Visual 14 (above: post-collaring trail camera visuals of Hpl-10 on 18.12.2015 and 02.02.2016, respectively

 

Phase 3: Collared Individuals, continued

1. Collared Females

Hpl-8, a young, sub-adult female (seemingly in oestrus) was observed together with Hpl-9 on free-hold farmland; according to reports from farmers, two females and one male had been seen on trail camera footage at more than one livestock kill site (pers comm. W.Mare, farm Arendsnes, trail camera footage). The AfriCat trail camera footage showed only one young female; the larger female was never seen. Once the young female (capture ID Hpl-8) had been immobilised, we realised that she was under-size and decided against fitting a collar. Blood and whisker samples and body measurements were taken and upon examining her dentition, noticed a broken upper left canine (see Visual 17); she weighed 126 kg. Hpl-8 was taken to Nomab waterhole in Etosha-west, together with Hpl-9; unfortunately, due to the fact that we were unable to fit a collar, we have no records of her whereabouts since 18.08.2015.

visual15 whiskers
Visual 15: whisker spot pattern, left side
visual16 whiskers
Visual 16: whisker spot pattern, right side
visual17 a teeth
Visual 17: top left canine broken off inside
the gum
visual17 b teeth
Visual 17: top left canine broken off inside 
the gum
   

Females Collared: Hpl-8 continued

visual18 lions
Visual 18: Hpl-8 body condition good, 3.5/5
visual19 lions
Visual 19: Pulse Oximiter attached to the tongue to
monitor blood oxygen levels and pulse rate
visual20 a lions
Visual 20: Hpl-8 left ear, no visible notches or scarring
which could assist with identification
visual20 b lions
Visual 21: Hpl-8 front left paw;
visual22 lions
Visual 22 & Visual 23: Hpl-8 and Hpl-9 recovering from
7 hrs 18 minutes and 7 hours anaesthesia, respectively
visual23 lions
Visual 22 & Visual 23: Hpl-8 and Hpl-9 recovering from
7 hrs 18 minutes and 7 hours anaesthesia, respectively

Phase 3: Females Collared, continued 1. Hpl-11 (Brand mark T-I)

visual24 lions
Visual 24 & Visual 25: Lioness T-I (Hpl-11), first identified
September 2013; note the small cubs at left (approx. 3
months old at the time), and the brand-mark mid-fore
leg, (T-I), left and right; also note tight, defunct VHF
collar (unknown project)
visual25 lions
Visual 24 & Visual 25: Lioness T-I (Hpl-11), first identified
September 2013; note the small cubs at left (approx.
3 months old at the time), and the brand-mark mid-fore
leg, (T-I), left and right; also note tight, defunct VHF
collar (unknown project)
visual26 lions
Visual 26: Hpl-11 displaying brand-mark T-I
visual27 lions
Visual 27: Hpl-11 new GPS-Satellite collar
fitted 22.02.2016.
visual28 lions
Visual 28 & Visual 29 : Hpl-11 dentition (yellow & worn)
and nose colouration: totally black
visual29 lions
Visual 28 & Visual 29 : Hpl-11 dentition (yellow & worn)
and nose colouration: totally black

Phase 3: Collared females, continued
Hpl-11 (Brand mark T-I)

visual30 lionsvisual31 lions

Visual 30 (above left: left hind paw Visual 31 (above right): new GPS-Satellite collar (at left) and old, defunct VHF collar (unknown project, no indication of collaring date)

 

Immobilization Hpl-11 (22.02.2016)

visual32 lionsThe AHLRP was initiated in June 2013: T-I (Hpl-11) was one of the first lionesses identified in the Hobatere Concession Area. Vague history: she formed part of the historical Hobatere pride, possibly collared in 2007, known then as 'the Huntress' (year of birth possibly 2003?); according to personal communication with the previous Hobatere Concessionaires, Hpl-11 is the mother of X1 (brand-marked 2007), a lioness of the Hobatere Campsite / Etosha Roadside group. As we have not yet been fortunate enough to collar X1, we cannot assume that Hpl-11 and X1 meet up at times. Through observations, there is evidence that Hpl-11 is the mother of Hpl-1; Hpl-11 produced 2 female cubs approx. June-August, 2013. Hpl-1 produced 2 female cubs approx. December 2012 and three cubs (1 male + 2 females) were born approx. first week October, 2014. All offspring are still alive and together form the so-called SPOTS-Pride (Hpl-1 is named SPOTS after the initial collar donation by Stichting SPOTS, Netherlands). Hpl-11 was collared at the Termite Plains bait-site, Hobtere North, on 22.02.2016.

Visual 32 (left): Hpl-11 at kudu-kill, Hobatere North, 18.03.2016, well recovered from anaesthesia

 

 

Phase 3: Collared Females, continued
Hpl-1 Collar replacement, 29.01.2016

visual33 lions

visual34 lions

Visual 33 (above left): Hpl-1, collared 2013 & 2014 and 29.01.2016. Visual 34 (above right): Hpl-1 in oestrus, with suitor Hpl-2 in tow, (Dec 2015).

visual35 lionsvisual36 lions

Visual 35 (above, left): Hpl-1, confirmed identification via micro-chip; Visual 36 (above, right): AfriCat Veterinarian, Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt, in discussion with AfriCat Lion Guard, Mr. Jackson Kavetu, Ehirovipuka Conservancy.

visual37 lionsvisual38 lions

Visual 37 (above, left): Hpl-1 left canines, worn but in good condition (estimated 6-8 yrs of age); Visual 38 (above, right): Hpl-1 at kudu-kill, (18.03.2016), with her three 15-month old cubs.

 

Phase 3: an Update on Collared and non-collared Individuals,

a) Hpl-2: (Volkel)

Visual 39 (below, left ) Hpl-2 at collaring October, 2014, lighter mane, age 4-5 yrs; Visual 40 (below, right): much darker complexion, December 2015, age 5-6 yrs

visual39 lionsvisual40 lions

b) Hpl-6 (Masialeti)
Visual 41 (below, left): Hpl-6 injured lower, right jaw (June, 2015); Visual 42 (below, right): well-healed lower, right jaw injury and good body condition (February 2016).

visual41 lionsvisual42 lions

c) Hpl-3 (Gaob-Hampton) – Omatendeka Male

visual43 lionsvisual44 lionsvisual45 lions

Visuals 43,44+45 (above): Hpl-3 at darting May, 2015; remains an elusive lion in good condition (centre, 2016), living in the Obob River area, Palmwag Concession; sightings few. (Centre: Photograph Courtesy Inki Mandt)

 

d) Hpl-4 (Muna) – Omatendeka female

Visual 46 (below, left): a lactating Hpl-4, October 2015; Visual 47 (below, right): November 2015, much thinner, with protruding nipples (mammary glands inconspicuous) but no sign of cubs; suspected killed by male intruder or spotted hyaena (collar shifted temporarily).

(Photographs top: Courtesy Dennis Liebenberg, Etendeka; bottom: Courtesy Fritz Schenk, Palmwag)

visual46 lionsvisual47 lions

Visual 48 (below, left): Hpl-4 and Visual 49 (below, middle): pride member, unknown heavily pregnant / lactating female, Visual 50: two more unknown members of the Hpl-4 pride (Photographs: Courtesy Fritz Schenk, Palmwag)

visual48 lionsvisual49 lionsvisual50 lions

Hpl-4’s (Muna) range extends between Etendeka Mountain Camp and the Gaes, Uniab & Kawaxab Rivers, overlapping at times with Hpl-5 (Tara). September & October, 2015, it seemed as if she had chosen a den-site in the Kawaxab River; reports of a strange male in the area and the presence of spotted hyaena were disconcerting. Despite regular monitoring November – January, no cubs were observed. Hpl-4 was collared May 2015 but the GPS-unit battery-life is low (VHF battery sufficient for at least another 12 months); due to the nature of the terrain, the collar will be replaced by mid-year.

 

e) Hpl-5 (Tara) Omatendeka male

Visual 51 (below, left) & Visual 52 (below, middle: Hpl-5 (Tara), his range extends from approx 30 km north of Etendeka Mountain Camp, the Gaes River south of Etendeka MC and westwards to Kawaxab & Aub Rivers; 23 – 30 September, Hpl-5 visited the Klip River, spending 8 days on top of the Grootberg Plateau (1600m).

Visual 53 (below right): Hpl-4 (female) + Hpl-5 (male), together with approx. 3 other females, form a loosely-associated group

visual51 lionsvisual52 lionsvisual53 lions

Visual 54 (below, left): dominant, non-collared male, October 2015 (pers comm. Dennis Liebenberg, Etendeka Mountain Camp); Visual 55 (below, right): Cheetah in the Etendeka Concession (February 2016, Courtesy Dennis Liebenberg)

visual54 lionsvisual55 lions

f) Hpl-7 (Liluli) – Etosha Roadside Pride

Visual 56 (below left): Hpl-7 has raised two female and one male cub to the age of approx. 2 years, at the time of writing; October 2015, her movement patterns indicated that she may have had a den west of the Etosha Roadside waterhole; the image below shows distended mammary glands, although no cubs have been sighted nor captured on trail camera footage; Map 13 shows solid black lines between the blue dot (waterhole) and a point further west, indicating regular movement back and forth.

visual56 lionsmap 13

g) X1 (Moola)

X1 (estimated 9-10 yrs of age) has not yet been collared, thus her movement patterns are unknown except for the occasional trail camera footage; regularly seen with Hpl-7, (presumed to be her daughter) we can only assume that her distribution range is similar. Visual 57 + 58 (below, left, middle) shows brand-mark X1 and indicates that she was lactating December 2015; Visual 59 (below, right), shows brand-mark X1 and distended mammary glands; lioness drinking in the background is Hpl-7.

visual57 lionsvisual58 lionsvisual59 lions

h) SPOTS-Pride, sub-adult females and large cubs:

visual60 lions
Visuals 60 + 61: Hpl-1 offspring: two sub-adult
females, born October -December 2012.
visual61 lions
Visuals 60 + 61: Hpl-1 offspring: two sub-adult
females, born October -December 2012.
visual62 lions
Visual 62: Hpl-1 & three cubs (born October 2014)
visual63 lions
Visual 63: female
visual64 lions
Visual 64: female
visual65 lions
Visual 65: young male cub
visual66 lions
Visual 66 and Visual 67: Hpl-11 sub-adult females
(born June-August 2013)
visual67 lions
Visual 66 and Visual 67: Hpl-11 sub-adult females
(born June-August 2013)
 

 

PART 2

1.1. Morphometrics: ten collared lions + one un-collared lioness (2013 -2016)

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

 

Table 4: Canine length in millimetres

LION ID NAME LEFT UPPER MM LEFT LOWER MM RIGHT UPPER MM RIGHT LOWER MM
Hpl-1 Female Spots 50 40 47 40
Hpl-2 Male Volkel 45 45 60 50
Hpl-3 Male Gaob-Hampton 52 43 52 43
Hpl-4 Female Muna 55 43 56 40
Hpl-5 Male Tara  43 35 42 34
Hpl-6 Male Masialeti  56 45 54 (missing)
Hpl-7 Female Liluli 44 35 43 34
Hpl-8 Female No name / no collar Missing broken at gum 33 44 34
Hpl-9 Male Mansa 53 42 55 44
Hpl-10 Male Leo 55 43 57 43
Hpl-11 Female Meebelo 45.4 16 40.5 28

Table 5: Body Measurements (cm)

LION ID NAME SHOULDER
HEIGHT
HEAD
LENGTH
HEAD
CIRCUM-
FERENCE
NECK
LENGTH
NECK 
CIRCUM-
FERENCE

TOP
NECK 
CIRCUM-
FERENCE

BASE
GIRTH BODY
LENGTH*
TAIL
LENGTH
Hpl-1 Spots 97 39 30 61  77  124  164  84
Hpl-2 Volkel 118  49  41  148  138  89 
Hpl-3 Gaob-Hampton 131  48  94  28 62  84  134  122  105 
Hpl-4 Muna 118  54  88  31  70  82  124  101  92 
Hpl-5 Tara 109  38  69  25  55  69  118  103  80 
Hpl-6 Masialeti 102  45  35  69  89  138  115  96 
Hpl-7 Liluli 105  37  17  63  75  128  109  82 
Hpl-8 No Name 100  38  19  66  55  98  122  80 
Hpl-9 Mansa 111  46  86  27.5  70  77  136  124  95 
Hpl-10 Leo 145  38  21    73.5  120  188  88 
Hpl-12 Meebelo 98  38  82  26  58  67  126  130  85 

* from base of neck to base of tail

 

Table 6: Right Foot Pad Measurements - Right Foot (mm)

LION ID NAME FRONT
LATERO-MEDIAL
FRONT
PROXIMO-DISTAL
BACK
LATERO-MEDIAL
BACK
PROXIMO-DISTAL
Hpl-1 Spots - - - -
Hpl-2 Volkel 80 110  80  90 
Hpl-3 Gaob-Hampton 93 71  84  65 
Hpl-4 Muna 90 68  81  78 
Hpl-5 Tara 75 59  71  58 
Hpl-6 Masialeti 94 69  88  73 
Hpl-7 Liluli 70 50  70  52 
Hpl-8 No name 78 57  72  56 
Hpl-9 Mansa 92 66  84  68 
Hpl-10 Leo 90 70.15  70.10  80.25 
Hpl-11 Meebelo 90 110 

 

Section 3:

1.3. Activity Patterns of lions located in the Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west and Omatendeka Concession

1.3.1. Find analysis of Home Range data 1.3.2 Individual Lion Movement Patterns Phase 3 (01 July 2015- 30 June 2016) {Report up to and including 29.02.2016}

 

2. Where do lions go in and out of the southern, western and northern boundaries and why?

 

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

 

4. Have the lions found within Hobatere established a viable population within the area and do they move between Etosha-west and Hobatere?

 

5. Do the ‘problem’ lions come from Hobatere or Etosha?

 

6. What conservation strategies and mitigation measures can be implemented to protect lions in general, as well as reduce livestock loss?

 

7. Do lions leaving Hobatere fall into the categories ‘occasional or habitual’ stock raiders?

 

8. Changes to the Project Plan for the fourth year of study (2016-2017)

 

9. Acknowledgments

 

10.References

 

1.1. Activity patterns of lions located in Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west & Omatendeka Concession

The AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (hereafter AHLRP) commenced at the end of the 2012/13 rain season, where the total precipitation in the Hobatere area was well below average (less than 250mm / annum). The 2013/14 rainfall again proved to be below than average (Average = 280-320 mm), the 2014/15 average rainfall measuring 280 - 380 mm, with minimal general rains and vast areas with under 200 mm;

2015/2016: The drought has continued into its 4th year, with much lower precipitation than 2014/15; by 29 February, most areas had received less than 100 mm during December, with no measurable precipitation thereafter.

Lion activity patterns are influenced by

a) only three wildlife water points within the 34 000 ha are Etosha Roadside (Campsite) Waterhole, Hobatere North Lodge Waterhole and Tree House; the Etosha Roadside lions also make use of water-points in Kaross Block and Etosha –west (see Map 3,);

b) Large numbers of livestock, mainly cattle, horses and donkeys, moved into the Hobatere Concession Area approx. August 2015 due to lack of grazing and browse on surrounding communal farmland; recent rains, albeit minimal, during December 2015 - February 2016, have encouraged livestock to return to farmland for the interim; inevitably, they will return to graze within Hobatere by mid-year, unless the southern boundary fence is repaired;

c) Herdsmen do not collect their livestock during late afternoon to kraal and keep them safe from lions and other predators after dark. Thus, most of the Hobatere lions have become habituated to hunting livestock within their protected areas, at times following the livestock onto said farmland.

d) the female reproductive cycles: Territorial males and newcomer males’ movement is influenced by females in oestrus 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.

map3 hobatere2

Map 3: The Hobatere Concession Area & Surrounds, including water points.  (Courtesy of Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Etosha Ecological Institute, 2014)

 

1.1.1. Movement patterns of collared lions in Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha-west & Omatendeka Conservancy

All collared lions have been fitted with GPS- Satellite collars (AWT x 7; Telonics x 3); Map 14 (below): indicates movement pattern over-view of 10 collared lions (Hpl-8, female, not collared, no data available)

map 14

Individual lion movement patterns Phase 3 (July 2015 -June 2016) {Report up to and including 29.02.2016}

a) Hpl-1 (SPOTS) Hobatere North Pride

map 15map 16

Map 15 (left): Home range Hpl-1 (SPOTS) October 2014 to April 2015; note the regular movement between lodge waterhole and den-site (Oct-Dec 2014).

Map 16 (right): Home range Hpl-1 (SPOTS), March 2015 to February 2016; note the cross-border movement between Hobatere and adjacent communal farmland (October 15 – February 16)

 

Analysis

2014-2015: A distinct difference in Hpl-1’s movement pattern is evident, influenced by a number of factors:

i) the den-site was vacated end November-beginning December 2014;

ii) the cubs born early October 2014, are 15-16 months old at the time of writing and well able to follow their mother, Hpl-1, for longer distances;

iii) comparing the Map 16 (top right) to the Map of Livestock Kills (Map 31, p54), it is clear that the distribution of cattle within Hobatere influenced her movements inside the protected area, especially the southern-most point of her range, as well as along the western border with farmland; iv) the increased movement westwards across the border onto communal farmland was also influenced by cattle grazing closer to the Hobatere boundary due to the last available grazing; extreme drought conditions have forced farmers to leave their livestock to graze unattended during the day and at night; the AfriCat kraals were not used, rendering the livestock vulnerable to attack; during the second half of 2015, livestock became weaker, unable to run from danger and easier to catch;

v) Hpl-1 moved her three young cubs into the northern plains, Oct-December 2015, with regular cross-border movement to the Okariro Fountain for water (blue dot, top left on communal farmland);

vi) the blue dot in the southern section of Hobatere denotes the original De Ville farmstead (Green House), where rains (Dec, Feb/March) filled the catchment dam, providing water for both wildlife and ‘illegal’ livestock; large numbers of zebra and cattle were caught by lions in close proximity to the dam, which is 2.5 km from the Hobatere southern boundary;

vii) the young male, Hpl-10, (first seen 30.09.2015 and collared 15.12.2015) and his brother, regularly move back and forth from farmland (especially the broad mountain range ) along the southwestern boundary; due to the mating activity involving both sub-adults and Hpl-1, it became evident that the males’ preference for the mountains in that area, attracted the SPOTS-pride further out of the protected area than previously (see Map 29, Hpl-10).

 

b) Hpl-2 (Volkel) Territorial male

map 17map 18

Map 17 (left): Hpl-2 home range Phase 2: October 2014 – April 2015; Map 18 (right): Hpl-2 home range Phase 3: March 2015 – Feb 2016

 

Analysis

A similar movement pattern was displayed during Phases 2 + 3 (June 2014- February 2016), except i) a marked increase in core home range from primarily the Otjovasandu airfield and surrounds in Phase 2 (Map 17, left), in a north-easterly direction to the Renostervlei waterhole and surrounds, (Map 18, right); ii) similar concentration along the boundaries of farm Ermo (first free-hold farm along Etosha southern boundary).

Ermo farm is surrounded by Etosha (Kaross Block) on three sides, and despite the fact that the inner Veterinary Cordon Fence is electrified to a height of approx. 1.5 metres, Hpl-2 and Hpl-6 attempt entry over the hills approx. 3-4 times per year (jumping over the 1.5m inner, electrified fence from a position higher than the top strand). This attraction to farm Ermo may be due to the following factors:

a) 2012, both Hpl-2 + Hpl-6 were collared at a well-supplied baiting-station, placed less than 500 m from the Etosha / Kaross boundary fence, to which they returned at least twice after collaring in 2012; regular baiting for spotted hyaena on Ermo, attracts a variety of scavengers and carnivores;

b) the extremely porous Etosha boundary fence in the hilly and mountainous areas, as well as large gaps underneath the gates and in gullies along the boundary fence, makes for easy entry to the farm; the lions then experience difficulty returning to Etosha as they are forced to scale the fence from a lower vantage point than upon entry, also fearing the electric shock. This traps the lions on farmland for an extended time (see Map 19, below, Ermo 09-12 July 2015). Movement onto Kaross Block & Hobatere southern boundary communal farms also evident.

map 19

c) Hpl-6 (Masialeti) – Territorial male

map 20


Map 20 (left) : Analysis: Hpl-6 was collared at the Etosha Roadside waterhole, June 2015, thus, there is no comparison of range prior to Phase 3; as mentioned under ‘Known Males Hobatere Concession’, on p10 , the siblings form a close bond and their ranges coincide considerably (see Map 18, Hpl-2); Hpl-6’s movement onto farmland also coincides with that of his brother, Hpl-2.

Observations showed that Hpl-6 was the dominant sibling during Phases 1+2 (Hpl-6 recognisable due to his defunct VHF collar, fitted 2012); his jaw injury mentioned on p27 most probably took place during the first half 2015.

 

d) The Omatendeka Lions Hpl-3 (male), Hpl-4 (female) and Hpl-5 (male)

map 21

Map 21 (left): Phase 2: 27.05.- 11.06.2015: Hpl-3 (blue lines/dots), Hpl-4 (black lines/dots) and Hpl-5 (maroon lines/dots) were darted close to Etendeka Mountain Camp, 27+28 .05.2015 (see cluster on map); soon thereafter, Hpl-3 moved westwards and remains elusive; Hpl-4 + Hpl-5 form a loosely associated group with 3-4 other lionesses.

 

map 22

Map 22 (above): May 2015 – February 2016: Home ranges and distribution for three Omatendeka Lions: Hpl-3 (pink lines), Hpl-4 (black lines) & Hpl-5 (bottle green lines); note how their ranges overlap just north of Palmwag Lodge.

 

e) Hpl-3 (Gaob-Hampton) Omatendeka Conservancy Male

Map 23 (below): Hpl-3’s home range, pink lines indicating his preferred river courses of the Kawaxab, Aub, Obob and Uniab.

map 23

Analysis
With reference to Map 23, It is clear that Hpl-3’s range extends further west than Hpl-4 + Hpl-5, with few lines indicating his movement east of the main road North (C43) during July 2015 and a foray across the Veterinary Cordon Fence (Red Line) between the 20th and 23rd September, onto communal farmland. Hpl-3 prefers the river courses, where the natural springs attract prey such as primarily Oryx, Hartmann’s Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe as well as other smaller species.

 

f) Hpl-4 (Muna) 0matendeka Conservancy Female

map 24

Map 24 (above): Hpl-4’s movement pattern includes the Etendeka Concession, the Gaes (represented by the most dense lines right of the C43) , Kawaxab & Uniab Rivers; she is often seen with 2-3 other lionesses, with Hpl-5 visiting regularly.

Analysis

The Gaes River forms Hpl-4’s core area (see the dense black lines south of Etendeka Mountain Camp), crossing into the Kawaxab and Uniab River courses. We suspected a den-site (07-30.09.2015) in the Kawaxab River (the dark core left of the C43), but cubs were never sighted; reports of unknown lions and a number of spotted hyaena in this area could have resulted in the death of the cubs. Early September 2015 saw Hpl-4 move across the Veterinary Cordon Fence (Red-Line) onto communal farmland.

 

g) Hpl-5 (Tara) Omatendeka Conservancy Male

map 25map 26

Map 25 (above left): Hpl-5’s range extends approx. 30 kms north of the Etendeka Mountain Lodge; his movements across the Veterinary Cordon Fence (Red Line) took place in June & August, spending no more than a few hours on the southern side; 23 September 2015, he entered the Klip River from the north, spent 2 days in the river course before rapidly climbing to the top of the Grootberg Range,

Map 26 (above right). According to reports by Grootberg Lodge guides, Hpl-5 was sighted on a kudu kill in the Klip River gorge on 24.09; by 25th, Hpl-5 had reached the top of the Grootberg (1600m), remaining on the Plateau until 30.09. 

Analysis

The Red Line (Veterinary Cordon Fence) was erected in the 60’s and remains essential to animal disease control; it can be deduced that the porous fence allows not only the back and forth movement of wildlife but also that of livestock. Human-Wildlife Conflict is rife along the Red Line as well as further into communal conservancies. Hpl-5’s visit to the Klip River may have been due to an instinctive following of zebra herds or a female in oestrus. Grootberg Lodge guides report 6-10 lions resident in the Klip River for some months of the year; the aggressive presence of other lions in the Klip River could have forced Hpl-5 onto the Grootberg Plateau.

 

h) Hpl-7 (Liluli) – Etosha Roadside Pride

map 27


Map 27 (left): Centre to Hpl-7’s range is the Etosha Roadside waterhole (prev. Hobatere Campsite), which lies approx. 1km from the Etosha-west fence; her range extends into Etosha-west, Kaross Block and Hobatere. Forays onto communal farmland to the south took place during June & July 2015

 

Analysis
Hpl-7 is the only collared female in the Etosha Roadside Pride; we presume that her mother, X1 (related but no definite lineage at this point), has a similar range as they are often seen together on trail camera footage. Hpl-7 also visits waterholes Rhino Boma (approx. 4km), Kaross-Fontein (approx. 10 km), Equiinus (appro.x 9 km) and Otjovasanzu-Fontein (approx. 10km) – {distances are from the Etosha Roadside waterhole}; she also makes use of the Otjovasandu River course (this river flows past the Hobatere Lodge), however never venturing further than approx. 5-8 kms into Hobatere, remaining on the east side of the central mountain range. Collared June 2015, so no comparative maps are available, but her regular movement pattern along the border between Hobatere and Kaross Block, simultaneously the Veterinary Cordon Fence and main tarred road to the North (C35), coincide with the large numbers of cattle grazing in that area on a daily basis since mid-2015. AfriCat encourages the communal farmers along the southern boundary of Kaross Block and Hobatere to herd their livestock back to the kraals each evening, but little heed is taken resulting in high livestock loss; farmers tends to be tolerant of livestock loss within the protected area as it is illegal to retaliate within a protected area and the continued drought leaves them no option; however, should any lion be seen on a kill outside of this protected zone, retaliation takes on a different dimension (leg-hold traps, poison and shooting).

 

i) Hpl-9 (Mansa) Etosha–west Male

Map 28 (below): Hpl-9’s three relocations have skewed his movement patterns and therefore his home range cannot yet be determined; his behaviour and drive to leave the confines of Etosha indicate that he has been displaced, hence the need to leave the natal pride and find new territory and females.

map 28

Analysis
Hpl-9’s core home range seems to be in Etosha-west, probably close to the Etosha Roadside Halt (prev. Hobatere Campsite); since his return to the west from Goas waterhole on 31.12.2015, he has passed onto the Ongava Nature Reserve (square block outside of Etosha boundary fence) and intermittently into the approx. 10 game farms comprising Etosha Heights (comprising farms Moesameroep in the east to Vlakwater in the west); here we are confident that Hpl-9 would hunt natural prey as the cattle have been removed. His forays onto farm Helaas, the only livestock farm along that section without electric fencing, may have resulted in livestock mortality but no reports have been forthcoming.

 

j) Hpl-10 (Leo) - newcomer male to Hobatere North

map 29

Map 29 (left): Collared December 2015, Hpl-10’s movement pattern indicates that the Tree House water-point is centre to his range; the two males spend a large amount of time in the mountainous areas along Hobatere’s south-western border (Ehirovipuka Conservancy), also moving south-east to De Ville farmstead and the porous southern boundary with !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy.

 

Analysis

Hpl-10 and his sibling have had a considerable affect on the dynamics of the Hobatere North Pride (SPOTS-Pride): since the offset of the AHLRP, June 2013, only two males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, have been observed and recognised as the territorial males, with Hpl-6 the probable father of all progeny; the Hobatere North-Pride, with visits by Hpl-2 + Hpl-6 once or twice per month, generally moved between the northern plains, Lodge waterhole and Tree House, with few forays across the western boundary onto communal farmland. Since September 2015, the two newcomer males, Hpl-10 and brother, have been a regular presence, keeping more to the south-western section of the 34 000 ha Concession but also spending extended periods outside of the protected area; a number of livestock kills within Hobatere as well as on adjacent farmland have been linked to these two males. With four sub-adult females ranging from 2 yrs 8 months to 3 yrs 2 months, their recently active reproductive cycles could be the reason for the males’ prolonged presence (since September 2015, at least 3 of the four sub-adults as well as Hpl-1, have shown signs of oestrus and been covered).

The activity pattern across the Veterinary Cordon Fence (Red Line), onto communal farmland to the west , as shown on the Map 29, above, suggests that the two males may have originated from the western or south-western river courses (Hoanib, Ombonde respectively); they have been seen with one or more of the sub-adult females in tow, increasing the threat of farmer persecution whilst outside of the protected Hobatere Concession Area.

 

k) Hpl-11 (Meebelo) - Hobatere North Pride

map 30


Map 30 (left): Hpl-11’s movement patterns were recorded for 37 days to the time of writing; collared on 22.02.2016 at the Hobatere Termite Plains bait-site, her extensive range indicates her dominance over the Hobatere North Concession zone.

 

Analysis
No comparison with Phases 1 + 2 available (Hpl-11 wore a defunct VHF collar for a number of years, the GPS-Satellite collar fitted 22.02.2016), but through observations and a number of trail camera visuals to go by (her brand-mark T-I visible for identification), Hpl-11’s range covered similar territory to Hpl-1, presumed to be her daughter. The deviation may be that Hpl-11 spent a greater amount of time on communal farmland along the southern, western and northern boundaries of the Hobatere Concession Area; however, the forthcoming months of regular GPS waypoints will establish a more consistent movement pattern for further analysis.

As for the only other adult female in the Hobatere North Pride, Hpl-1, the presence of livestock inside of the protected area since mid-2015 as well as the ongoing drought conditions forcing livestock to graze unattended closer to the Hobatere boundaries, has most definitely encouraged her hunting preference for cattle and donkeys; this could be the main reason for Hpl-11’s approximately eight boundary crossings onto adjacent farmland during the 37 days of monitoring (see Map above). Hpl-11 also reached Etosha’s western boundary on 29.02., with no indication whether she entered the Park or turned back once she had reached the fence. Due to this ‘habitual’ cross-border behaviour by Hpl-11, her two sub-adult daughters may become regular perpetrators and should be collared and monitored accordingly.

 

1.1.2. Final Analysis of Home Range Data

Analysis was done using R version 3.2.2 (R Core Team 2015) and Microsoft Office Excel 2007. Data from the ten lion collars was first filtered using the trip::speedfilter (Sumner 2015) function with a maximum speed of 30 km.h-1 and trajectories made in adehabitatLT (Calenge 2006). The trajectories were rediscretized (adehabitatLT::redisltraj, Calenge 2006) to represent regular 2 hour time intervals before analysis.

The home range for each lion was estimated from all available data, although the duration of tracking differed substantially between individuals, as was shown in section 1.2. The minimum convex polygon at 95 and 75% was calculated using adehabitatHR::mcp (Calenge 2006) and the utilization distribution mapped using a Brownian bridge kernel density approach (adehabitatHR::bbkernel, Calenge 2006). The time spent in different land use areas and parks was assessed using sp::over (Pebesma & Bivand 2005). For the seven lions (4 females and 3 males) fitted with AWT GPS-Satellite collars, which recorded temperature in addition to location, the average speed at different reported temperatures was plotted for the males (Hpl-2, Hpl-3, Hpl-5) and females (Hpl-1, Hpl-4, Hpl-7, Hpl-11).

 

Utilization distributions of tracked lions 1.

Home ranges of the 10 tracked lions

Home ranges of females were generally smaller than those of males (Figure 1). Hpl-10’s range is smaller than those of other males but was only recently tagged (15.12.2015)giving an under estimate. Hpl-9’s range is distorted by relocations back into Etosha National Park during tracking (3 relocations: 18.08, 29.09 + 22.10.2015). Hpl 2 and Hpl 6’s ranges overlap substantially (sibling males) as do Hpl-1 and Hpl-11 (daughter and mother, respectively). The lions collared on communal land in the east remain separate from the Hobatere - Etosha-west population

fig1

Figure 1. Home ranges (75% MCP) for six male and four female lions, tracked between 2013 and 2016, in the Kunene Region, north-western Namibia.

 

2. Hobatere North and Etosha Roadside Females

Females seem to remain mostly within a small area of their total range (Figure 2). The distribution of Hpl-1 centres around the Hobatere Lodge and the Tree House waterholes. Hpl-7 stays close to the Etosha Roadside campsite and Hpl-11 has spent most time in the northern part of the conservancy, although she was only tracked for a short time (22.02 – 13.03.2016) and this distribution is likely to change when more data is available.

fig2

Figure 2. Home ranges (75 and 95% MCP) and utilization distributions of three Hobatere / Etosha Roadside lionesses. Blue line: boundary of the Hobatere Concession Area

 

3. Hobatere North and Etosha-west Males

The males differ from the females in that they show a low level of presence throughout their range, a sign of territorial behaviour (Figure 3). Hpl-2 and Hpl-6 have very similar distributions, using the Renostervlei (Etosha-west) and Etosha Roadside waterholes, but with the highest location density in Etosha-west between these two points. Hpl-10 has not been tracked extensively yet (15.12.2015-29.02.2016), but so far seems to centre his activities in the vicinity of the Tree House waterhole, Hobatere North.

fig3

Figure 3. Home ranges (75 and 95% MCP) and utilization distributions of three male Hobatere – Etosha-west lions. Blue line: boundary of the Hobatere Concession Area

 

4. The Omatendeka lions

Hpl-3 remains west of Etendeka Mountain Camp, while Hpl-5 and Hpl-4 are found closer to the Lodge and seem to have similar distribution patterns, although Hpl-5, a male, covers a larger area and moves further north (Figure 4).

fig4

Figure 4. Home ranges (75 and 95% MCP) and utilization distributions of three Etendeka lions. Top row: male, left, female, right. Water points in this area are not plotted.

 

5. Relocated Etosha Male

Hpl-9 was captured on free-hold (commercial) farmland and relocated into the Etosha National Park three times during tracking, distorting the estimated home range (Figure 5). The patch of slightly darker orange in the east between Etosha and AfriCat North, is probably his preferred territory but it overlaps substantially with free-hold farmland along Etosha’s southern boundary and has a high potential for conflict with those farmers.

fig5

Figure 5. Home range (75 and 95% MCP) and utilization distribution of a male lion relocated during tracking. Blue line: boundary of the Hobatere Concession Area, central black line: border between Etosha National Park and free-hold (commercial) farmland.

 

6. Time spent by individuals in different land-use areas

Only one of the tracked lions (Hpl-9) has spent a substantial amount of time on free-hold (commercial) farmland (Figure 6), although Hpl-2, Hpl-6 and Hpl-7 have all overlapped with farmland briefly. Hpl-2, Hpl-6 and Hpl-7 cross between Hobatere Concession Area and Etosha-west, while Hpl-1, Hpl-10 and Hpl-11 are based in Hobatere North, but visit communal land in the west and south. Hpl-3, Hpl-4 and Hpl-5, collared on communal land (Omatendeka Conservancy), do not cross into either conservation area and seem not to overlap with the others lions at all.

graph1

Figure 6. Time spent by tracked lions in different land-use areas and reserves (Hobatere Concession Area, Etosha National Park, communal land and free-hold (commercial) farmland); height of bars indicate total tracked time.

 

7. Relationship between travelling speed and temperature

The females (n=4) showed a strong negative linear relationship (R2=0.71) between the average distance travelled per hour and the temperature recorded by their GPS (Figure 7), but the relationship breaks down below about 15oC. The males (n=3) tended to travel further per hour than the females and showed a peak of activity between 150C and 30oC. Above 35oC very little movement is recorded for either sex.

graph2

Figure 7. Average distance travelled per hour by male and female lions at different temperatures; error bars show standard error

The Telonics GPS-Satellite collars on Hpl-7, Hpl-9, Hpl-10, do not register temperature or speed, hence the lack of data from those collars.

 

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

Background, Phases 1+2: 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, as well as livestock. The farming settlements of Marienhoehe & Kameeldoring are based approximately 25m -1 km 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 Ville), situated only 2.5 km from the boundary fence, dried up, forcing herds of elephants out of Hobatere onto adjacent farmland (flattened fences, reports of 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 that 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.

The western and northern boundaries of Hobatere form part of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF or Red Line) (see Map 3, p5) the farming community of Werda is 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.

Phase 3: The Livestock Kill Sites map (Map 31, p54.), clearly shows the number of known carcasses found inside of the Hobatere Concession Area and close to the boundary. Since mid-2015, large numbers of cattle and donkeys have been found grazing into Hobatere as far as the Hobatere North Lodge (15-20 kms) and the Etosha Roadside (prev. Hobatere Campsite), approx. 20 kms from the southern boundary; instances of livestock predation by lions and retaliation by people against the lions in the study area are summarised in the following table: 

Table 7

Livestock Predation 
March 2014-March 2015
Location Conditions Lion Mortality Location / Method
Livestock 24
(incl 20 cattle, 3 horses + 1 donkey)
Hobatere and adjacent farmland Cattle inside protected area /
cattle not kraaled
1 small cub + 2 sub-adult
females
Leg-hold traps / shot
         
Livestock Predation 
March 2015-March 2016
 Location  Conditions  Lion Mortality  Location / Method
Livestock 42
(incl 33 cattle,  9 donkeys)
Hobatere and adjacent farmland   Cattle inside protected area /
cattle not kraaled
None

map 31

Map 31: Livestock kill sites inside protected area, Hobatere Concession Area, and adjacent farmland; boundary fences are porous and at places non-existent, livestock roam unprotected during the day and are not kraaled at night, in drought conditions.

 

3. 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?

AND
4. Have the lions found within the Hobatere, established a viable population within the area and do they move between Etosha-west and Hobatere?

 

During Phases 1 & 2 of the AHLRP, 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 one time outside the protected areas of Hobatere and Etosha National Park.

Phase 3: (July 2015 – Feb 2016) During this phase, lion movements took on a different course, largely due to the following factors: a) the small cubs (born October 2014) were able to move greater distances; b) the four sub-adult females in the SPOTS-pride were seen separate from Hpl-1 (SPOTS), her cubs and Hpl-11 at times, as well as together, playing an important role in the hunt; sightings also confirmed two sub-adult females with two of the three young cubs, generally the male and one stronger female, while the smaller, slimmer cub accompanied her mother, Hpl-1; c) the arrival of the two young males into the Hobatere North area (September 2015), affected the behaviour and movement patterns of the Hobatere North Pride: Hpl-1 and her cubs followed a new, separate route between 01 October – 15 December 2015, Hpl-1 presumably keeping the cubs out of harm’s way; the four sub-adult females were separated from their natal group (Hpl-1, Hpl-11 and the three young cubs), spending much of their time with the two young males; d) the two territorial males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, seemed to spend less time with the Hobatere North Pride, possibly due to the presence of the newcomer males;

According to the Maps indicating movement patterns, Hpl-1 and her small cubs did not enter Etosha-west nor Kaross Block, although Hpl-1 did reach the C35, the main road to the north, which runs alongside the western border of Etosha-west, but did not venture through the fence into the Park; Hpl-1’s waypoints indicated her presence at the Etosha Roadside waterhole, venturing further east than usual; there is no evidence that Hpl-1 and X1 met up during here forays into that area (X1 is reportedly Hpl-1’s sister). Hpl-11’s old collar was replaced with a GPS-Satellite collar on 22.02.2016, thus her movements since the start of the AHLR Project 2013 have not been sufficiently monitored; how often Hpl-11 meets up with her daughter, X1, is unknown as yet.

Hpl-7 + X1’s movement patterns and trail camera footage, indicated that they spend a large part of their time together, venturing into Etosha-west for a distance of maximum 10 kms, and into the Kaross Block as far east as the water-points Rhino Bomas and Kaross Fontein.

The male Hpl-9 appears to be displaced; after three relocations, the final drop-off location approx. 360 km east of his so-called ‘home-range, he has returned the area most frequented since his first capture. At the time of writing, Hpl-9 was approx. 8 km north of Etosha’s southern boundary with free-hold farmland.

Hpl-10 and his brother spend most of their time in the close vicinity of Tree House waterhole, Hobatere North. One or the other males has fathered two cubs, born approx. December 2105 – January 2016, first seen on 23.02.3016. One other sub-adult female (approx. 3yrs 6 months of age) has come into oestrus, with both newcomer males very attentive. It remains to be seen if these two males will remain in Hobatere North for an extended period of time; they seem to be tolerated by the two territorial males, Hpl-2 + Hpl-6, but whether they are here to stay, time will tell.

map 32

Map 32, male distribution patterns

 

Conclusion:
Hobatere Concession Area and Etosha-west: Distribution patterns and land use of 7 lions clearly indicate range cores within Hobatere and Etosha-west, with i) viable populations within the above-mentioned protected areas; ii) no evidence of viable populations within 10 -20 kms outside thereof; iii) cross-border movement is evident but temporary; iv) cross-border movement is influenced by livestock grazing within lion habitat and unprotected livestock alongside protected areas, despite AfriCat’s Livestock Protection Programme with 20 kraals built for 'hot-spot' farming communities; v) porous protected area boundary fences encouraging back and forth movement of livestock and easy exit for lions.

map 33

Map 33: female distribution patterns

 

5. Do the 'problem' lions come from Hobatere or Etosha?

Phases 1+2: Observations by the AfriCat Communal Carnivore Conservation Team, Werda farmers and MET rangers, suggest that lions move from western ENP and Hobatere at the Werda Veterinary Control Gate; lions also exit through the boundary fences at river crossings and elephant breaks as well as sections of the Hobatere southern boundary fence that are gaping holes.

 

Phase 3: The question posed has been re-phrased:

"What determines 'problem' lions along the Hobatere and Etosha boundaries?"

Phase 3: due to the continued presence of livestock within the Hobatere boundaries for at least 6 months (August 2015 – February 2016), the term ‘problem’ lion should be rephrased as ‘problem’ livestock and problematic farmers; with an abundance of ‘easy’ livestock as prey within their territory, the Hobatere lions have become ‘habituated’ to killing opportunistically. This poses an additional problem in that livestock grazing inside of the protected area are often chased by the lions, the cattle run for ‘home’ on the outskirts of the park and are then killed outside of the protected area; the lion is then regarded as vermin and trapped, poisoned or shot. A programme has been tabled i) whereby the Hobatere Lodge Management will assist AfriCat with the patrol of Hobatere’s northern, western and southern boundary as well as support the lion monitoring process; ii) a fencing team will be made available to assist Veterinary Services teams with the maintenance of the northern and western boundary fence; iii) A request has been submitted to MET to repair the largely non-existent Hobatere southern boundary fence, which would greatly contribute to keeping livestock out of this protected area; iv) one of the AfriCat Lion Guards, a highly regarded traditional leader, has been requested to spend more time with ‘hot-spot’ farming communities in need of guidance and leadership.

 

6. What conservation strategies and mitigation methods can be implemented to protect lions in general, as well as reduce livestock loss?

In order to establish greater tolerance of lions outside of protected areas, whether they are resident or ‘visitors’, their value to the farmer & conservancy member, i.e. the ‘man on the ground’, has to be established through: a) tourism-generated benefits directly linked to lions, eg. donations originating from lion-sightings or designated donations for kraals or schools or financial support for pro-active livestock management, to name but a few; b) ‘Conservation Education’ & ‘Conservation Agriculture’ guide-lines / management plans should be disseminated via Conservancy Management; c) AfriCat’s Livestock Protection Programmes, which provide effective, practical methods of protection, the success and progress thereof hampered by underlying cultural and political issues; d) government-supported mitigation programmes, encouraging adaptive livestock farming in areas where people live alongside conflict species and adjacent to protected areas such as the Hobatere Concession Area and Etosha NP, with porous and in some places non-existent, boundary fences (the latter as specific reference to the Hobatere southern boundary fence).

 

Phases 3 + 4 (2015-2017): 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: to date, 20 such kraals have been built in the Ehirovipuka and !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancies (see Map 34, p59);

2. Establishing a system whereby farmers re-instate herdsmen to take care of their livestock during the day whilst in the field and to kraal them at night: payment methods should be re-visited;

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;

4. 'Conservation Agriculture' courses and work-shops should provide sound arid-adapted farm management, animal husbandry and improved livestock protection programmes, especially once the drought has broken;

5. When funding allows, developing a more extensive Lion Guard Programme, whereby conservancy members take on the role of 'keepers of the wilderness'.

Photographic Tourism: With the recent development of two Photographic tourism ventures within the Hobatere Concession area, a) Etosha Roadside Campsite and b) the Hobatere North Lodge, 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 the communities once the revenue generated filters down to the individual.

The AfriCat 'Lion Guard' 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, the Lion Guards are assigned to various 'conflict' areas, eg. ENP western boundary from Werda Veterinary Control Gate to Omatambo Maue, Otjokovare area, Onguta farming community (along the Hobatere western border) & Arisona farming community, along the Hobatere south-western border). These men play a vital role in protecting the Hobatere & Etosha lions and mitigating lion-farmer conflict on communal farmland.

 

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

Phase 3: Further studies have established that the regularity of movement onto farmland has increased since August 2015, due to the persistent drought resulting in migration of wildlife and lions following their prey cross-border; the lions have become habituated to livestock as easy prey causing them to kill inside of the protected area and outside.

As far as can be ascertained through the monitoring of the 10 marked / collared lions, these lions would be regarded as 'occasional' stock-raiders, chiefly due to habituation caused by livestock grazing inside of protected areas, porous boundary fences and poor livestock management on communal farmland.

 

Changes to the project plan requested for the fourth year of study (2016-2107)

g) Extension of Project into the Ombonde – Palmfontein area, Ehirovipuka Conservancy

Since the successes of the AfriCat Lion Research Project and the Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation & Community Support Programmes have become evident, Conservancies further afield have requested AfriCat’s support and advice, including requesting monitoring of lions in their respective areas.

The studies carried out since 2013 by the AfriCat Hobatere Lion Project (AHLRP) indicate strongly the natural movement of lions along the Otjovasandu and Ombonde Rivers, as well as where the rivers converge south-west of the Hobatere Concession Area; into the fourth year of drought, these ephemeral river systems offer the last source of grazing and browse for both livestock and wildlife.

Reports of at least 4-6 lions frequenting the Otjeombonde waterhole have been received, after the loss of 5 lions at the hands of a farmer illegally residing and farming in the Ehirovipuka Core area west of Palmfontein; evidence of lion movement have also been observed entering the Hobatere Concession from the south-west.

Funding has been sourced for ten more collars and ten more trail cameras, which will enable AfriCat to establish lion numbers, age and range, as well as identify problem areas regarding improved protection of livestock, increasing tolerance towards lions.

Extension of the AHLR Project westwards (including Orupupa, Omatendeka and Anabeb Conservancies) with the Grootberg Range as ecological boundary, has been discussed with Dr P. Stander of Desert Lion Project (see letter attached).

 

i) Permission to use wild animals from the study area for bait

We request permission to acquire bait for the darting & collaring of 10 lions during Study Phase 4: 2016-2017. To date, we have sourced carcasses from hunting and culling operations on neighbouring farms as well as used the natural kills or ‘road-kills’ found in the study area. Buying meat is not within budget, especially when at least half a carcass is needed to attract and 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 and kept in a cool-room. 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. (See Letter of Motivation & Request, attached).

ii) Branding of study subjects

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 identification 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.

iii) 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 using a light aircraft or gyrocopter.

map4 africat north activity map

Map 34: AfriCat North Activity Map 2016 - 2018

 

 

 

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).

 

References:

1. Genetic perspectives on "Lion Conservation Units’" in Eastern and Southern Africa J. M. Dubach, M. B. Briggs, P. A. White, B. A. Ament, B. D. Patterson. Received: 22 November 2012 / Accepted: 22 January 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013;

2. Nicholls, K. Ward, J.L. & Kat P.W. African lion trophy hunting policy cannot be based on a site-specific model, [pdf] Available at: http://www.lionaid.org/download/African-Lion-Trophy-Hunting-Nose-Colour-Ward-Kat-Article.pdf

3. G. M. B. Orbell1⇓, S. Young2, J. S. Munday3: Cutaneous Sarcoids in Captive African Lions Associated With Feline Sarcoid-Associated Papillomavirus Infection (+Author Affiliations

4. 1Gribbles Veterinary Pathology, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

5. 2Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve, Koah, Queensland, Australia

6. 3Geoff Orbell, Gribbles Veterinary Pathology, 1868 Dandenong Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia Email: geofforbell@gmail.com Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

7. Calenge, C. 2006. The package adehabitat for the R software: a tool for the analysis of space and habitat use by animals. Ecological Modelling 197: 516-519.

8. R Core Team. 2015. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria.

9. Sumner, M. D. 2015. trip: Tools for the Analysis of Animal Track Data. R package version 1.1-2 Pebesma, E.J., R.S. Bivand. 2005. Classes and methods for spatial data in R. R News

10. Sincere thanks for Ms Jennifer Roberts, for her assistance with the Data Analysis; MSc Student, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa Phone: 0795689973 Email: rbrjen006@myuct.ac.za

11. Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Large Carnivore Atlas, 2012

12. Namibia’s Communal Conservancies 2007 – Review of Progress

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 December 2016 11:06

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The AfriCat Foundation Environmental Education Programme 2016

ee programme 2016 ongutaee programme 2016

"There is no Relevant Education without Environmental Education." Fortunately more and more people are realizing the absolute necessity of Environmental Education and our programme is becoming better known and more sought after. Consequently we are reaching more young people and teachers which in essence is the main goal of the project.

 

Brief summary of the project for which the grant was allocated:
The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme includes, where possible, both AfriCat centers: AfriCat Head Quarters on Okonjima farm, Otjozondjupa Region (central Namibia) and AfriCat North, the field base along Etosha’s south-western boundary, Kunene Region (northwest Namibia). 2016 has been a year of even greater challenges for the AfriCat Foundation in its drive to conserve and protect Namibia’s carnivores, simultaneously encouraging and supporting farming communities living with carnivores: into the fourth year of a crippling drought, farmers have lost large numbers of their livestock and those still alive are emaciated, with little chance of survival; the carnivores, preying on the weak and slow, intensify the Human-Wildlife Conflict in most areas. Drought-relief programmes offer little respite with the AfriCat Livestock Protection Programmes being re-visited to accommodate dwindling, unattended herds. However, more so now than ever before, our Motto 'Conservation Through Education': sustainable, long-term conservation through motivation and commitment, should encourage the Namibian youth, teachers and farmers to re-visit avenues of arid-adapted land-use and even greater consideration of our wilderness.

ee programme 2016ee programme 2016 onguta 

Brief Project Update
Achievements:
i) Thanks to the additional donation we received from TUSK this year, we have been able to provide staff accommodation at the Environmental Education Centre; this functional EE Cottage (3 bedrooms, lounge/dining, kitchen & bathroom, surrounded by a small garden, overlooking the Okonjima plains), is currently available to the visiting support staff, until such time as a second permanent educator can be sourced. Due to her recent debilitating health condition, Mrs. Helen Newmarch, the Head of Environmental Education, has taken a temporary leave of absence, hopefully returning to Okonjima January 2017.

ii) In order to provide continuity, we have engaged three dedicated educators from Namib High School, Swakopmund, who return to AfriCat on a regular basis, taking on the visiting school and college groups.

iii) Outreach initiatives were spurred on by activities around World Lion Day (10 August), involving a greater number of schools and students in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (Erongo Region), Otjiwarongo (Otjozondjupa Region), and Kamanjab and Otjokovare (Kunene Region), bringing the message of declining predator numbers and the need for intensified conservation efforts to more than 2,000 students and their teachers.

iv) Two more groups visited the AfriCat North programme, where extended travel distance and the nature of the wilderness programme provided insight to harsh conditions and broader conservation strategies.

v) The new AfriCat Information Centre includes an African Savannah display as well as information on the various projects, offering a refreshing and informative visit to both students and tourists.

africat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centreafricat information centre

vi) Debmarine Namdeb Foundation Donation:

 

Debmarine Namdeb Foundation Donation Handover

On Friday, the 11th November 2016, AfriCat was glad to welcome the Debmarine Namdeb Foundation Executive Manager, Ms. Janita von Wielligh, who on behalf of her respective foundation came to handover a donation of wanderer tents to the AfriCat Foundation.

Ms. Wielligh arrived at AfriCat headquarters just before 13h00, and the team was ready and excited to meet her, with everyone dressed neatly in AfriCat uniform and big excited smiles. The introduction went by smoothly as Ms Wielligh went around to meet all the team members, and gave us all a quick brief about what the Debmarine Namdeb Foundation is all about and how they operate.

We quickly all gathered around her car, to help off load the donation of wanderer tents that we so patiently waited for, since December 2014 when we first handed in our proposal for funding to Debmarine Namdeb - "Patience sure is a virtue"! In a few minutes all was setup and ready for Ms. Wielligh to do the official handover - we all came together behind the donated tents for some pictures.

After the handover, Ms. Donna Hanssen, the director of AfriCat HQ gave Ms. Wielligh a quick tour around the AfriCat Information Centre. Mrs. Tammy Hoth-Hanssen and Mrs. Jenny Noack were also there to give a brief summary about the Leopard Density Study and the AfriCat North Lion Project. Ms. Wielligh, was also taken on a short tour into our AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre enclosures, were she had the opportunity to meet some of our cheetah ambassadors, who are all in line to be rehabilitated into the Okonjima Nature Reserve, when space opens up. Fascinated by the sights, she sure had so many questions and our volunteer Mr Jonathan Carl, Carnivore Care Taker Mr John Mulyata, and AfriCat Administrator Selma Amadhila, were with her to answer all her questions.

It was finally time for lunch and more chatting, an opportunity to get to know each other better. Before we could bid farewell to Ms. Wielligh we had to show her the famous AfriCat Environmental Education Centre, which is the site where the donated tents will be used.

Team AfriCat would like to extend our sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Debmarine Namdeb Foundation for considering our proposal for funding and finally deciding to donate to us x6 wanderer tents for the AfriCat Environment Education Centre.

"In the end, we conserve only what we love.
We love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught"
Baba Dioum (Senegalese environmentalist)

namdeb1 namdebnamdeb namdebnamdebnamdeb

 

Table 1: Participating Groups: 2016 to November 2016

DATE SCHOOL NUMBER REGION
15 Jan - 17 Jan 2016 Tsaraxa Aibes Secondary School 16/2 Otjozondjupa
4 Feb - 7 Feb 2016 Namib High Conservation Club 16/2 Otjozondjupa
19 Feb - 21 Feb 2016 Mondesa Youth Opportunities 20/3 Erongo
1 Mar - 4 Mar 2016 Windhoek International School 17/2 Erongo
7 Mar - 10 Mar 2016 Windhoek International School 18/2 Khomas
14 Mar - 18 Mar 2016 Windhoek International School 16/2 Khomas
29 Mar - 1 Apr 2016 Walvis Bay International School 22/2 Khomas
22 Apr - 26 Apr 2016  Walvis Bay International School 15/3 Erongo
9 Jun - 12 Jun 2016 Namib High Conservation Club 16/2 Erongo
20 Jun - 24 Jun 2016 Perivoli Teachers 0/25 Erongo
28 Jun 2016  Edugate 20/2 Otjozondjupa
8 Jul - 10 Jul 2016  Mondesa Youth Opportunities 20/3 Erongo
15 Jul - 18 Jul 2016  Windhoek Scouts 20 Khomas
21 Jul - 24 Jul 2016 Perivoli Okonjima Country School (AfNorth) 20/2 Otjozondjupa
5 Sept - 9 Sept 2016 Walvis Bay International School 20/2 Khomas
5 Sept - 10 Sept 2016  Walvis Bay International School (AfNorth) 20/2 Erongo
16 Sept - 19 Sept 2016 NAMCOL Students 20/2 Otjozondjupa
17 Oct - 19 Oct 2016 Dartmouth College 14/7 UK
27 Oct - 31 Oct 2016 Swakopmund Primary School 20/2 Erongo
11 Nov - 13 Nov 2016 Educate Academy 13/2 Otjozondjupa
    Total: 323/69
Grand Total: 392
 

Table 2: Outreach:

DATE SCHOOL NUMBER REGION
14 June 2016 Tsaraxa Aibes Secondary School 120 Otjozondjupa
14 June 2016 Paresis Environmental Club* 50 Otjozondjupa
27 June 2016  Private School Swakopmund 350 Erongo
1, 5, 12 June 2016  School of Excellence 400 Erongo
4 July 2016  The Dolphin School 200 Erongo
4 July 2016  Namib High School 700 Erongo
5 July 2016  Swakopmund Secondary School 500 Erongo
6 July 2016  Walvis Bay International School 100 Erongo
6 July 2016  Swakopmund Primary School 200 Erongo
6 July 2016  Coastal High School 600 Erongo
6 July 2016  Pro-Ed Academy 250 Erongo
    Total: 2,570  

The increased number on this table was partly due to contributions by Aino-Maaria Rautenbach, the AfriCat PR/Fund Raiser.

 

namibia regions

More schools were included in our Outreach efforts and with the arrival of the DSJW volunteer, Jonathan Carl, who replaced Marvin Dzikowski, in mid-August 2016, plans have been tabled to encourage greater participation in the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme.

 

In addition to the regular programme, the AfriCat Team has collaborated with the Perivoli Okonjima Country School to encourage input from a wide range of schools throughout Namibia, concerning the ever-increasing Human-Wildlife Conflict on Namibia’s farmland; these schools were visited as part of the Outreach Programme, where students were encouraged to write letters of concern to Namibia’s President, H.E. Hage Geingob, to be handed to him on World Lion Day, 10 August 2016. Unfortunately, we have been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with the President, due to his busy official Calendar.

 

 

 

ee programme 2016

ee programme 2016

a) Challenges
i) Staff:
Due to the fact that Namibia has a small complement of Environmental Educators or teachers prepared to live in the bush, the search for a suitable second Environmental Educator is still in progress, hampered by restrictive work visa pre-requisites, as well as a shortage of interested parties prepared to commit to a longer term sojourn in the rural areas where AfriCat operates.

Fortunately, our DSJW volunteer, Marvin Dzikowski, has proven to have been very capable, energetic, and passionate about the programme; he joined us in August 2015 and has been able to run the programmes together with Donna Hanssen, Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, and visiting support staff from the Namib High Conservation Club; we look forward to Marvin’s replacement, Jonathan Carl, being equally competent and passionate. Ruth Makoyo and Johannes Mulyata will be replacing Daniel and Katrina who have been with us for 4 years and who will sadly be leaving AfriCat’s EE prgm in December. Ruth will be employed as the 'camp-cook' and 'camp-assistant' and Johannes will become the camp manager and tracker.

 

ii) Transport:
Due to the fact that our EE groups range between 20-40 students/teachers at one time, we are still dependent on Okonjima Lodge for most of our transport requirements; the 'Pupkewitz' – donated, single-cab pick-up is a great help, but suitable only for staff and Outreach travel.

ee programme 2016 ee programme 2016 in the bushee programme 2016 in the bush ee programme 2016 ee centre

b) Future plans:
i) Marketing: Increased Outreach (i.e. visits and presentations to rural and urban schools) is necessary to establish AfriCat EE’s public face and naturally encourage greater contribution and participation in Namibia’s conservation efforts;
ii) More contact with our Ministry of Education, to allow and hopefully fund more government schools to participate in our programme;
iii) Increase our staff complement: A concerted effort to source a second educator as well as maintain good relations with the DSJW Volunteer programme;
iv) Improved communications with participating schools, to encourage more efficient planning regarding the most suitable length of stay;
v) Further development of EE Centre: extensions to the existing EE Centre, include more student and staff accommodation as well as kitchen/dining and activity areas.

ee programme 2016 in the bushee programme 2016 in the bush ee programme 2016 in the bushee programme 2016 in the bush

The AfriCat environmental Education Programme offers a unique Environmental Education experience to the Namibian Education system and therefore we are able to make a positive contribution towards the long-term and sustainable development of Namibia’s youth.

 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 24 November 2016 00:44

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Ultrasonographic adrenal gland findings in healthy semi-captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)

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Cheetahs are known to be particularly vulnerable to a number of clinical conditions when in captivity. Some of these conditions, such as gastritis and gastric ulcers, have been linked to increased stress levels in other species. In order to determine how much of a role stress plays in these conditions in cheetahs, scientists need to be able to measure stress in some way.

Until now this has mainly been achieved by looking at levels of glucocorticoids ("stress hormones") – mainly cortisol – in the animals’ faeces. This method has its drawbacks, though. Not only are there practical difficulties when it comes to sampling – especially in free-ranging animals, or animals kept in groups - but it also gives a narrow picture, as it reflects only corticoid values within the 12-24 hours prior to the sample being produced.

Because glucocorticoids are produced in the adrenal glands, it is possible that measurement of these glands adrenal could give researchers an indication of stress. In fact, in other species, such as mice, enlargement of the adrenal gland has been clearly shown to be associated with increases in stress. Adrenal size (and health) can be measured using transabdominal ultrasonography. This technique has not, though, until now, been verified in cheetahs.

In this study, the adrenal glands of 33 anaesthetised, semi-captive, adult cheetahs were examined via transabdominal ultrasound. The purpose of the study was to describe a technique for locating and measuring the adrenal glands via ultrasound, as well as to establish normal values for adrenal gland dimensions and ratios, factoring in age, sex and captive status of the animals.

The researchers found no significant differences in adrenal volume between the captive and free-ranging cheetahs in the study, nor between males and females. They did, however, find that adrenal dimensions increased as age increased. Ultrasonography was shown to be practical, relatively uncomplicated and repeatable, with useful applications in future studies.

Read the full research report: Robert M. Kirberger and Adrian S.W. Tordiffe, 2016, Ultrasonographic Adrenal Gland Findings in Healthy Semi-captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:47

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AfriCat's Annual Health Check - 2016

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This year’s report on the AfriCat Clinical Health Checks, conducted at AfriCat, Namibia by Dr Adrian Tordiffe, Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt:

From the 26th of June to the 7th of July 2016, the AfriCat team immobilized 27 cheetahs, 1 leopard and 1 lion at the AfriCat Foundation for their annual health examinations and to collect samples for our registered, research project (The long-term health monitoring and immuno-competence of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and other felids at AfriCat in Namibia – Permit no. 2184/2016).

Three leopards and 2 male lions were not immobilized, but visually inspected for any abnormalities.
All the animals were weighed. Blood and urine samples were collected and haematology and serum biochemistry profiles performed for each animal.
They were vaccinated against feline calici virus, feline panleucopaenia virus, feline herpes virus and feline rhinotracheitis. They were also vaccinated against rabies. Abdominal ultrasound examinations were performed on all the anaesthetized animals and gastric biopsies were collected from all the cheetahs using a flexible endoscope to assess the extent of gastritis in this captive population.

Dr Gerhard Steenkamp also checked each animal for dental abnormalities and a few cheetahs had root canal treatments and/or extractions.

Overall the animals were found to be in good health. This year all the animals were free of external parasites.

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INDIVIDUAL PROCEDURES THAT WERE FOCUSSED ON THIS YEAR: 

HYPERTHERMIA SITUATIONS DURING THE DARTING OF CAPTIVE AND FREE-ROAMING CHEETAHS (Acinonyx jubatus).

Although not many people are aware of the fact, one of the most frequent causes of deaths in cheetahs during immobilisation is hyperthermia (overheating). This phenomenon has not been studied or described much at all, but the annual health checks at AfriCat have provided Dr. Adrian Tordiffe and colleagues a unique opportunity to study and learn more about this problem - to try and understand what causes it, and to begin to develop ways of managing and preventing it. In cheetahs who develop hyperthermia, temperatures measured shortly after darting can be over 40℃ and are sometimes still rising. If the body temperature is not brought down rapidly this can have severe consequences for the cheetah - brain damage, damage to the digestive tract and/or cardiorespiratory failure.

Hyperthermia cases we saw during AfriCat health checks seemed to be unrelated to the environmental temperatures. It was happening on cool and warm days, and at different times of day; but research done by a colleague, Prof. Leith Meyer, gave Dr. Tordiffe a clue as to what might be going on. Prof. Meyer had found that impalas (another species in which hyperthermia occurs) who were stressed prior to immobilisation were at greater risk of developing the condition. Dr. Tordiffe began to look at whether the same thing was true in cheetahs. He started keeping records of the cheetahs’ stress levels immediately before they were darted - noting whether they were relaxed and lying down, pacing, or running, and giving them a stress score based on his observations. A pattern emerged. Cheetahs who scored higher on his "stress scale" were definitely more likely to have higher initial temperatures after darting.

One of the most stressed of the cheetahs darted during the 2014 checks was a young male named Swakop (a 3 yr old male cheetah: (2015) 39.2Kg (2016) 42.4Kg) ) He had only recently come in to AfriCat with his sister Mundi (a 3 yr old female cheetah: (2015) 37.6Kg (2016) 35.2Kg), after the pair were found near death in the desert near Swakopmund. Swakop was very suspicious of Dr. Tordiffe - beginning to run the moment he saw the vet. His temperature had already reached 43℃ by the time we were able to measure it after darting him.

Dr. Tordiffe had to make a quick decision. The usual procedure for a so-called "hot cat" involves cooling them with cold water (a combination of sprayed water and wet towels) and ice packs. The cheetahs are cooled on the vehicle while they are transported to the clinic. Once at the clinic more water and ice is applied and electric fans and leaf blowers are used to cool them even further. Dr. Tordiffe knew that, even with aggressive cooling like this, Swakop’s temperature would take a while to start coming down, and he didn’t think that with a temperature that high, they could afford the time. One of the reasons for the slow cooling is that one of the drugs used to tranquillise cheetahs (medetomidine) causes the blood vessels in the skin to close up (vasoconstriction). This actually works AGAINST cooling, as one of the body’s ways of getting rid of excess body heat is by opening up blood vessels in the skin so that the blood can be cooled as the skin is cooled. Knowing this, Dr. Tordiffe made the decision to give Swakop an antidote to the medetomidine and wake him up. This would allow Swakop’s natural cooling systems a chance to bring his temperature down. In addition to opening up the blood vessels in the skin, once awake, the cheetah is also able to properly "blow off" heat by panting - something that tranquillisation also affects.

Swakop was doused with cold water and given the antidote. Fortunately he recovered well, showing no lasting effects of his ordeal. Unfortunately, though, the vets had been unable to give him a proper health check! Having realized how important stress levels are, extra work has been done during subsequent health checks to try and reduce stress levels prior to darting. Canvas screens have been installed in front of the catch camps with darting "windows" to prevent the cheetahs seeing the vets. Some of the cheetahs who get stressed in the smaller "catch" camps are instead darted from a vehicle inside their larger camps. Despite these efforts, though, some of our cheetahs still get a little stressed. That means we still need to be prepared to manage hyperthermia. The experience with Swakop got Dr. Tordiffe thinking. Once he’d worked out that the immobilization drugs were affecting the cheetah’s cooling mechanisms, he realized that there could be a way to cool a critically "hot cat" quickly, without having to reverse the immobilisation. As a result, this year the management of "hot cats" changed. Any cheetahs showing high initial temperatures were immediately rushed into the clinic. Basic cooling procedures were initiated, but, instead of spending a lot of time wetting and cooling them outside and waiting until their temperatures started dropping, they were quickly intubated, moved inside and connected to a gas anaesthetic (isoflurane) machine. They were then given the antidote to medetomidine. The response was excellent. Their temperatures came down rapidly even though they were no longer being treated with water, ice and cold air. In total 7 of the 33 cheetahs immobilised this year had initial temperatures exceeding 40oC, and all of them responded very well to this new treatment. Once again, Swakop was one of them. He is a particularly alert and feisty cat, which probably makes him more prone to becoming easily stressed by contact with strangers, and thus more prone to hyperthermia. This time, though, he didn’t manage to get out of having a thorough health check. We were pleased to find out that, aside from his "hot-blooded" tendencies, he’s in excellent shape.

See more: Hyperthermia in Cheetahs

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SHAKIRA’S SKIN TUMOR

Earlier this year we noticed a small swelling on Shakira’s side. We asked for veterinary advice and we were told to keep an eye on the lump and monitor her for any signs of distress. She continued to eat and behave normally, but the swelling did not disappear. In fact, it grew larger. For this reason the vets decided to immobilize her this week and have a closer look.

Once she was anaesthetised the skin over the swelling was cleaned and shaved. On examination the vets felt that the "lump" was some kind of tumour and a decision was made to operate and remove it then and there.

Before her surgery began, Dr. Kirberger performed a thorough ultrasound examination of Shakira’s abdomen - in particular her liver and spleen. Some types of skin tumours can spread into other organs (metastasis) and sometimes this can be seen using ultrasound. Fortunately he could detect no signs of spread of the tumour.

Dr. Steenkamp then began surgery. He found that the lump had a very clear shape and was easy to distinguish from the tissues around it. He was able to remove the entire tumour very cleanly. The tumour was placed into formalin and will be sent to a pathologist in order to find out exactly what kind it is and, based on those results, whether any further treatment will be necessary.

Shakira recovered well from the anaesthetic, is already back to her usual self, and doesn’t seem at all bothered by the stitches in her side.

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DYSON’S ABSCESS

When Dyson was being brought in from his large enclosure into the smaller management enclosure in preparation for his health check, it was noticed he had a swelling on his lower jaw. As soon as he was under anaesthetic Dr. Steenkamp had a look inside his mouth to see if the swelling was perhaps linked to a damaged tooth. He found that it was under the tongue, rather than associated with a tooth root.

We shaved the skin over the swelling on the jaw and Dr. Kirberger scanned the swollen area using ultrasound. The swelling was filled with fluid. Guided by ultrasound, he inserted a needle into the fluid and withdrew a large quantity of pus, confirming that the swelling was an abscess. The rest of the abscess was drained and Dyson has been put onto a course of antibiotics. We’ll be keeping an eye on him, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

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NEW COMPOUNDS FOUND IN CHEETAH'S URINE GIVE IMPORTANT CLUES TO SCIENTISTS STUDYING CHEETAH DISEASES

Some of the research data coming out of the annual AfriCat health checks is shining more light on how the difference between diets of captive and wild cheetahs may be having more of an impact on cheetah health than was previously realised.

Dr Adrian Tordiffe has been looking at compounds found in cheetah urine in order to try and understand the metabolic processes happening inside the cheetah. As he says: "if you want to understand what happens in a household, you can go through their rubbish. What they throw out can tell you a lot about how they live their lives. The same principle applies to cheetah urine. What you find in the urine can give us a good indication of the metabolic processes that take place in this unique animal.”

In his research he has discovered significant differences between the urine of captive and wild cheetahs, almost certainly because of the differences in their diet. Whilst wild cheetah eat a diet of whole (mainly ruminant) carcasses, including internal organs, skin, connective tissue and bone, captive cheetahs are usually fed lean, muscle meat - usually donkey or horse. Significantly higher levels of certain phenolic compounds occur in the urine of captive cheetahs. Dr Tordiffe believes that this is due to the fermentation of certain amino acids in their higher protein diet.

These same phenolic compounds have been shown in other species to suppress the production of dopamine. Although dopamine is probably best known in humans for its function as a neurotransmitter in the brain, it also play a vital role in gastrointestinal and kidney health. Captive cheetahs frequently suffer from gastritis and renal failure, unlike their wild counterparts. Previous theories to explain these diseases have blamed genetic inbreeding and stress, but now researchers such as Dr Tordiffe are increasingly looking to their diet to understand the diseases unique to cheetahs in captivity.

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WHAT IS HAPPENING BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE LAB

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In the clinic lab this year it was all systems go during the health check week too. All the samples collected during the checks needed to be carefully labelled, processed and prepared for transport to laboratories all over the world. Depending on the sample type and what tests were to be carried out on them, they were either placed in special preservatives or frozen in liquid nitrogen.

Basic tests are done in the lab every year, too. Urine is tested using special "dip sticks" and sometimes smears of blood, tissue or other fluids are made and examined under the microscope to help diagnose a specific problem.

This year the lab went hi-tech with the addition of three new analysers. This means that for the first time some blood tests were being run "in-house" too!

We have always carried out a few basic tests on blood and urine samples in the laboratory, but this year the team from Onderstepoort (The University of Pretoria’s veterinary faculty) brought some hi-tech laboratory equipment with them which meant more analysis of blood samples were done in house this year. The ABAXIS VetScan HM5 analyser measures the quantities of the different types of blood cells in the patient’s blood (red blood cells, blood platelets and the different types of white blood cell) as well as testing how much haemoglobin there is in the cells. The ABAXIS VetScan VS2 machine measures a number of molecules in the blood that can show how well the patient’s kidneys are functioning, the i-STAT machine measures levels of different gases and ions in the blood. This last machine was being used by the anaesthetists this year, who were looking at the effects of different anaesthetic protocols on the patients in order to work out which protocols are most suitable for various procedures in cheetahs.

 

 

BROWN HYAENA COLLARING

Due to malfunction of his old collar, BROWN, a free-roaming, wild brown hyaena was fitted with a brand new VHF-collar, a week before the annual health-checks. Attracted by the baits, Brown was a regular visitor on our camera traps that were installed throughout the reserve for the AfriCat and Okonjima leopard density study and thus, gave us the opportunity to still have an eye on him and his well-being despite his failing collar.

Brown was last collared three years ago during the annual health checks 2013. Unlike leopards who appear to be quite calm once captured in a steel-mesh box trap, brown hyenas tend to panic more easily resulting in injuries that can occur around the paws and mouth (especially tooth damage) of the animal. When Brown was first captured, Team AfriCat and the veterinary annual health check team led by Dr. Adrian Tordiffe arrived about 30 minutes after capture. By the time of arrival Brown already bent the steel bars of the trap with his powerful jaws and blood became visible around his mouth. Due to the large amount of adrenaline released into the body, it took two immobilization attempts until the anaesthesia showed its full effect. Even though it didn’t take longer than an hour between capture and immobilization, damage was done: Eight teeth were broken and Brown’s gum was severely damaged. Having Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp around – veterinarian with a particular interest in dentistry and maxillofacial surgery – Brown was transported to the AfriCat HQ headquarter where it took 4.5 hours to repair his teeth and gums.

For that reason we didn’t waste any time last week after the door of the remotely triggered box trap dropped and Brown was enclosed inside. Team AfriCat immobilized him only 30 minutes after capture and this time he didn’t seem to be as stressed out as the previous time.

Brown seems to be in quite good condition despite his age of approximately nine years. With 48 kg, Brown is slightly exceeding the average weight of a male brown hyena which is ranging from 40 to 46 kg. Coat and fur appeared healthy and no major injuries were visible.

His teeth though showed clear signs of age and abrasions; one premolar in the lower jaw was found to be broken. Dr. Rodenwoldt extracted the tooth and the root and placed a suture to close the extraction site. Long-acting antibiotics and an analgesic was administered in order to prevent infection.

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Dr Maria Geremek

Dr Maria Geremek is a young vet, who graduated last year from the 'Warsaw University of Life Sciences'. She practises mainly with horses in Poland, but also spread her adventurous wings and participated in veterinary work in Baja California, Mexico, working with Whales. After accomplishing her internship in equine medicine, she decided to gain some more first-hand experience with other large mammals. Dr Geremek contacted The AfriCat Foundation last year and expressed interest to join this year’s AfriCat Annual Health Checks. She was then referred to Dr Adrian Tordiffe and after the AfriCat scientific committee reviewed her papers, she was granted permission to attend as a 'paying' volunteer.

Dr. Geremek assisted the vets during this 2016 AfriCat Annual Health-check and experienced first-hand how these top, wildlife-vets dart and monitor cheetah, leopard, hyaena and wild dogs. She assisted with the collecting of blood and urine samples, recorded carnivore data such as weight, temperatures and any injury or complications that was perhaps hidden from just a quick glance.

"Being a volunteer-vet during AfriCat health checks was far way beyond what I expected. I was able to gain a lot of hands-on experienced, but also a lot of knowledge from veterinarians, researchers and staff that were working with me at that time. There was no question that was not answered. There was no action that hasn't been explained before. Working with many different kind of species like cheetahs, lions, leopards but also herbivores allowed me to experience a wide spectrum of wildlife veterinary. Very professional approach towards conservation, animals, team and visitors is something difficult to find nowadays. And I am extremely honoured that I was able to be a part of such a great team."

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DR ROXANNE BUCK & DR GARETH ZEILER (SA Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria)

The annual health checks performed on the AfriCat animals require general anaesthesia to facilitate handling wild animals and performing diagnostic procedures. Very little is documented on 'anaesthetic maintenance' in cheetah and anaesthetic related death is unfortunately common. Dr Zeiler and Dr Buck joined Team AfriCat this year for their second time to monitor the cheetah while they are anaesthetised, but this has also given them the opportunity to study two different anaesthetic protocols.

"Anaesthetic is required for handling wild animals to allow procedures such as the ultrasounds and dentals. This also gives us a great opportunity to study different anaesthetic agents in cheetahs. We are investigating different immobilisation and anaesthetic combos to develop an ideal protocol for field anaesthesia. We are also here to monitor to ensure the cats stay stable under anaesthesia, but also to make sure they stay asleep.

And as like last year we are busy comparing isoflurane (a common gas anaesthetic agent) to propofol (an intravenous agent commonly used in people and domestic dogs and cats). We hope that characterizing and comparing these agents in cheetah can help to improve anaesthetic safety in cheetah and other wild felids in the future. This year again was a wonderful opportunity to study these beautiful animals and we are very grateful to AfriCat for allowing us to be a part of the amazing work they do."

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DR SUZANNE RICHCREEK

Dr Suzanne Richcreek is a qualified Dr for Veterinary Medicine (DVM), who lives in Franschhoek, South Africa. Before moving to South Africa, she founded and worked exclusively with feline veterinary practise for 18 years in the USA.

Dr Richcreek too, contacted The AfriCat Foundation last year and expressed interest to join this year’s AfriCat Annual Health Checks. Again she was then referred to Dr Adrian Tordiffe and after the AfriCat scientific committee reviewed her papers, she was granted permission to attend as a 'paying' volunteer.

Suzanne joined the AfriCat Health Checks this year to learn more from the best in the field and to gain experience while assisting all the vets with various small procedures, such as collecting biopsy samples, weight measurements and obtaining blood & urine from all cats.

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DR. HOLLY GANZ PhD : USA Staff scientist, Eisen Lab, UC Davis Genome Centre, Health Sciences Dr. Davis, CA

Dr Ganz is a researcher specializing in the microbiology of animals. This project was initiated in 2014 which included the cheetah microbiome project. This is a collaborative effort between Dr Tordiffe Cheetahs in captivity need a better diet, Dr Steekamp and Dr Holly Ganz from the University of California Davis.
See: Current research on the cheetah micobiome.

The aim of the cheetah microbiome project is to genetically characterise the gastrointestinal bacteria of the cheetah using, high next-generation genome sequencing. The type of bacteria and their relative abundance will be compared between captive and free-ranging cheetahs and between healthy cheetahs and those with gastritis. Once a "normal" bacterial profile has been established, we will also be able to see how this changes in response to dietary manipulation.

"The gut microbiome contains bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that are essential for normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and its connection to the central nervous system. At AfriCat, we are characterizing the gut microbiome of captive and wild cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in order to explore its role in the production of metabolites affecting animal health."

During the 2014 & 2015 AfriCat Annual Health Checks, Dr Ganz collected samples to test whether the composition and predicted function of the gut microbiota also differ.

During this year’s AfriCat Annual Health Checks (2016), Dr Ganz collected samples from the recently rehabilitated cheetahs, namely Aprilia, Starsky & Harley, to see how their microbiome has changed since they started hunting for themselves, after their release into the 20 000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve in Sept 2015.

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Dr Jose Ruiz Carlos, Dentist

The oral health of all the cats is evaluated as part of their annual health checks. This involves the recording of a dental chart in which different parameters (gingivitis, gingival recession, plaque index . . . ) are evaluated for each of the teeth present. With all this information a treatment plan is tailored for the need of each cat. The treatment can range from a closed root planning, to extractions or root canal therapy to preserve a periodontically sound tooth. Some of the cheetahs living at AfriCat’s Care Centre suffer from severe wear of the teeth, to the point of exposing the pulp inside the tooth. This pulp once exposed to the oral cavity (fluids and its bacterial flora), will become inflamed (pulpitis), and if no treatment is provided within the first 24-48h, this will eventually cause the pulp of the tooth to die and become necrotic; once this happens the infection present within the tooth can travel all the way to the tip of the tooth and cause an abscess. The treatment for this pathology is performing a root canal therapy if is an important and/or sound tooth, or extraction in the case of teeth were periodontal disease has destroyed the support of the tooth, or is a tooth whose extractions won’t impact on their hunting or eating abilities of the cats.

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A WORD OF THANKS

"Dear Donna and Team AfriCat

Despite arriving back from Namibia a week after the annual health check started, I travelled immediately on to the Free State for a week of equine work and then dived back into my penguin work today.
Arriving back in Cape Town post Namibia and post AfriCat, and going through our photographs from the Namibian trip, I finally had chance to reflect on the incredible experience we had working at AfriCat.
I wanted to express my most sincere gratitude to you for making it possible for Jose and I to join in with the annual health checks. We thoroughly enjoyed working as part of the team and are so grateful for the experience we gained in working with these large cats.
We were so inspired by Dr Rodenwoldt - such a dynamic, enthusiastic individual and talented veterinary surgeon.
I was grateful for the introduction we received on the first day, when one of your lovely guides went into the background and beginnings of the farm and I am still astonished that it was your father that brought Brahman cattle to Namibia. Driving around the country the week before, we had seen so many and actually commented on the large number of Brahmans!
You then took over the introduction and explained about the foundation’s focus and ethos – Conservation Through Education and addressing human-wildlife conflict. I felt so in awe of the work AfriCat does and was captivated by the sustainability of the organisation. In this day and age of so many wildlife organisations, AfriCat already felt unique and special.
During the course of the week I was time and time again reminded of AfriCat’s positive impact on the local community, with the countless school groups coming through the clinic.
You, and your employees, genuine and passionate natures continually resonated through the clinic, with every tourist group. I could appreciate your earnest commitment to educating people.
What also made an impact on me was the degree of inclusivity and involvement of the whole Okonjima staff and I could feel absolutely how everyone on the farm was truly part of the family.
We left feeling immensely proud to have been a small part of something so great and incredibly blessed to have been afforded this amazing opportunity. Okonjima & AfriCat have earned a place in our hearts and we are already feeling the withdrawal pains.
Please pass on our most sincere thanks to the rest of your team – Tammy, Tristan, Jenny, Louis and Selma were all so welcoming, helpful and dedicated.
With all our heartfelt thanks and warmest wishes,”
Keri-Lee & Jose Carlos

 

READ MORE ABOUT THE RESEARCH DONE AT AFRICAT:

 

Ultrasonographic adrenal gland findings in healthy semi-captive cheetahs (acinonyx jubatus)
Full report: PDF File

 

Laparoscopic salpingectomy in two captive leopards using a single portal access system
Full report: PDF File

 

Ultrasonographic and laparoscopic evaluation of the reproductive tract in older captive female cheetahs
Full report: PDF File

 

Effect of portal access system and surgery type on surgery times during laparoscopic ovariectomy and salpingectomy in captive african lions and cheetahs
Full report: PDF File

 

Comparison of high definition oscillometric and direct arterial blood pressure in cheetahs
Full report: PDF File

 

A strange discovery and a new surgical procedure
Full report: PDF File

 

Cheetahs in captivity need a better diet
Full report: http://mg.co.za/article/2015-07-30-cheetahs-in-captivity-need-a-better-diet/#.VbtR74HkM_c.facebook

 

Current research on the cheetah microbiome
Full report: PDF File

 

and more: http://www.africat.org/program/research

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 01:11

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WORLD LION DAY 2016

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The Harsh Reality . . . 

"One year ago, with the loss of Cecil, . . . . people and initiatives fighting to save the lion"- Dr Luke Hunter, President, Panthera

With the most recent and detailed report on the status of the African lion published by Panthera, 'Beyond Cecil: Africa’s Lions in Crisis', those of us who truly care are numbed by the shocking statistics and atrocities that have come to light:

- Lion populations have plummeted by 43% in the past 20 years, to an estimated 20 000; in the same time-frame, populations in West, Central and East have collectively dropped by 60%;

- Lions have lost 75% of their original habitat in the past 100 years, lions now only occupy 8% of their historical range (which once spanned an area of over 13 million km2), and according to reports have disappeared entirely from 12 African countries, with possible recent extinction in four more;

- Only 6 African countries unequivocally harbour more than 1 000 lions: Tanzania & Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa;

- Africa’s human population is expected to increase dramatically, from a current 1.2 billion to 2.47 billion by 2050; half of this growth is predicted in only 9 countries, all lion range states;

- Agricultural land use in sub-Saharan Africa has increased as has livestock grazing areas; between 2005 – 2050, cultivated land area is expected to increase by 21%, and livestock predicted to increase by 73%;

- Major threats: Human-wildlife conflict (lions on farmland - either resident in communal conservancies or raiding from protected areas - and cattle grazing illegally in protected areas), bush meat (historically for subsistence use in rural communities, now sold commercially in Africa, Europe and USA), human encroachment (encroachment of people and their livestock into Protected Areas and the associated pressure on lions is now regarded as one of the top three threats to the species; this is linked to the illegal bush-meat trade, a threat to both lions but their prey), trophy hunting (is difficult to regulate and to ensure sustainability) and lion poaching (the full extent of poaching for lion bones and other body parts is unclear, but the trade is growing);

- Captive Bred lions and Canned Hunting: more than 1 000 lions are killed each year in South Africa in so-called 'canned hunts', which cost on average less than a third of a 'fair chase' hunt; this feeds a legal trade of lion parts, particularly bones for illegal tiger products.

Each year, when writing AfriCat’s World Lion Day piece, I struggle to find a message of hope and I feel devastated at the harsh realities that we face daily out in the field . . . yet, when I meet a farmer who tirelessly herds his cattle and small stock home to safety each evening and see a child’s smile at the sight of a lion, I know that there has to be something that each of us can do to change it all, especially in our vast and sparsely populated country, Namibia.

The AfriCat Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCCP), which drives the Hobatere Lion Research Project (AHLRP) and the Livestock Protection Programme (LPP), is making headway in a number of communal conservancies in the Kunene Region of north-west Namibia, where lions are either resident or visitors and where photographic lodges are rapidly developing innovative ways to support these programmes as well as the affected farmers; once such lodges are able to prove the value of the 'living' lion by generating more revenue and employment, the greater the tolerance and acceptance will be.

Join us on World Lion Day in celebration of the 'living' Lion, and "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Mahatma Ghandi). ‪

#‎AfriCat ‪#‎Namibia ‪#‎WorldLionDay ‪#‎wildlifeconservation ‪#‎savelions ‪#‎savehabitat ‪#‎savingthesurvivors ‪#‎nonprofit ‪#‎awareness ‪#‎support

World Lion Day 2015
World Lion Day 2014
In honour of World Lion Day 2014
A Namibia without lions

free lions wold lion day

free lions 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 August 2016 04:18

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