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AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project Update July 2014

male lion fences down unherded-livestock

Project Name: AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project
Title: To Conduct a study of the Lion (Panthera leo) population within the Hobatere Concession Area and movements between the Hobatere Concession Area, western Etosha National Park and adjacent communal farmland.
Research Permit No. : 1790/2013
Principal Investigator: Tammy Hoth-Hanssen
Co-workers: Dr. M. Jago, Dr. F. Joubert, Dr. C-H Moeller, Mr Uwe Hoth, Mr. S. Dirsuwei, Mr. B. Muzuma, Mr. K. Kavetu
Reporting period: 01 April 2013 – 31 March 2014
Project Location: Hobatere Concession Area, Western Etosha National Park and adjacent communal farmland
Author: Tammy Hoth

 

1. Background

The Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Large Carnivore Atlas 2012) estimates the Namibian population at 1113 – 1644 lions in three density distribution categories: low, medium and high (see distribution Map below, Namibian Large Carnivore Atlas, 2012). 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.

carnivore-atlas

Lion (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. Communal livestock farmers of the #Khoa di //Hoas and Ehirovipuka Conservancies 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 not known. The extent of livestock loss and resultant lion mortality on adjacent farmland cannot yet be properly assessed.


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

  1. Research and Monitoring: "To carry out research on the social carrying capacity for certain species that can cause problems, which is determined by the conflicts they cause and the degree of tolerance shown by local residents. 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."
  2. Building Self-Reliance: "To build the capacity for all stakeholders to develop HWC management and mitigation plans and to implement appropriate mitigation methods."
  3. 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, but, as these areas are not fully protected in the same manner as national parks are, 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.

 

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

  1. aimed to re-establish accurate current data on the demography of lions within Hobatere and the surrounding areas.
  2. it has provided initial data on the movement of lions into and out of Hobatere, as well as
  3. attempted to provide some of the driving forces which stimulate lions to move.
  4. the project aimed to quantify both the degree of human-lion conflict and the impact it has on people living around Hobatere.
  5. mitigation measures were analysed and the effectiveness of each measure was assessed.
  6. the time-frame (one year) is too short for resultant information 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 Amersfoort Wildlife Trust, Netherlands, Stichting SPOTS, Netherlands and the AfriCat Foundation, Namibia.

This Report summarises the Research results during Phase 1.

 

Key Questions / Hypotheses to be tested

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

As far as could be established in year 1 (between 01 April 2013 and 28 February 2014), the following individuals have been identified: 3 adult males, 3 adult females, 9 cubs = 15

 

a. Observation May 2013 at Hobatere Campsite: three (3) young, adult males, (visuals 01,02,03,) VHF-collared with low / no transmission, one of which seems to be dominant and is often solitary or with one or 2 known females with 5-7 cubs (born approximately October-December 2012); the males were collared on farm Ermo #646 (21.03.2012, visual 04), a commercial livestock and hunting farm against south-western Etosha National Park border and returned to western Etosha (03h00, 22.03.20120, Duineveld, approx. 30km from farm Ermo) as part of a collaborative project with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (The Etosha Trans-boundary Lion Project, Permit # 1567/2011; under the supervision of Dr Ortwin Aschenborn). Approximately 7 days after their relocation, the 3 male lions returned to the well-visited, baiting station on farm Ermo via the Kaross Block (entry through elephant break in Kaross Block eastern fence), but were successfully chased off (exit at same fence-break) by the AfriCat Communal Carnivore Conservation (CCCP) team.

male lion
Male lion 1 on farm Ermo. #646 March 2012
male lion
Male lion 2 on farm Ermo. #646 March 2012
male lion
Male lion 3 on farm Ermo. #646 March 2012
tammy met ranger emmanuel
Collaring one of the males on Farm Ermo. #646

 

The three males were observed crossing the C35 in the direction of the Hobatere Campsite and monitoring via VHF Telemetry located them at the Hobatere Campsite, May and October 2012 (see Table 1. below).

 

Table 1: Monitoring of 3 male lions collared 21.03: # 490, # 460 + # 190.

Date Method Position Location #490 #460 #190
21.03. VHF Ermo Farm Ermo Farm      
28.03. VHF Otjovasondu Otjovasondu   x x
03.04. VHF Ermo Ermo (AfriCat chased off)   x x
12.04. Aerial (Ortwin) West ENP Renosterviei + Dolomites x Mort ? x
14.04. VHF Otjovasondu   x x x
    Renosterviei   x x x
    Dolomites   x x x
01.05. VHF Ermo   x x x
09.05. VHF Ermo   x x x
21.05. VHF Ermo Hobatere campsite ? Male with collar sighted 21.5. by Ehirovipuka staff (reported 29.5) ✓ Faint x x
27.05. VHF Ermo   x x x
29.05.   Hobatere Hobatere campsite ✓ Faint x x
13.06. VHF Ermo   x x x
26.06. VHF Ermo /W. Etosha        
30.06. VHF Hobatere Hobatere campsite x x x
03.07. VHF Khoa di Hoas Marienhoehe farm x x x
01.08. VHF / Aerial Hobatere, south and west Hobatere, south and west x x x
28.10. VHF Hobatere Hobatere campsite ✓ Strong x x

b. One adult female + 2 cubs (estimated born October-December 2012); seen with 2 males, possibly the 2 mentioned in a.; adult female subsequently immobilised and fitted with a GPS-Satellite collar on 27.10.2013 at Hobatere Lodge waterhole. Lioness named SPOTS – final ID number still to be finalised with Etosha MET.

 

06 lioness spots
Lioness Spots collared 27.10.2013
06 mamma hobs campsite
Big Mamma and 5 cubs.
lions zebra kill
Big Mamma and 5 cubs.

 c. One adult female (brand mark X1 {'Big Mamma'}) + 5 cubs (est. born October-December 2012); seen regularly on trail cameras at the Hobatere Campsite waterhole and surrounds,  at times with one male (possibly one of the 3 collared on farm Ermo) and / or with the female with 2 cubs in b.;

 

d. One adult female (collared as part of another as yet unknown project, collar too tight but lion in excellent condition, brand T--l, named 'Black-collared Lioness'); Solitary until 2 small cubs were observed July/Aug 13, when she joined lioness SPOTS + cubs to form the small pride of 6 (2 adult females and 4 cubs, termed the SPOTS-pride);

08 black collared lioness cubs
T-1 'Black-collared Lioness' with 2 cubs.
09 black collared lioness
T-1 brand mark, shoulder.

e. Three males observed either solitary or with the SPOTS-pride or with X1, unable to identify.

lodge male lion
Lodge male, no collar.
lodge male lion collaredLodge male, collared.
 male lion no collar campsite
Campsite male, no collar.
13 campsite male lion
Campsite male, collared.

f. One adult female (brand-marked, unclear); observed at Thormaehlen & Cochran Hunter’s Camp, exit Hobatere at fence/road crossing, last seen end 2012;

g. One sub-adult male (often seen with the brand-marked female, f.); observed at Thormaehlen & Cochran Hunter’s Camp, exit Hobatere at fence/road crossing, last seen end 2012;    

 

The three males mentioned in 1a. were fitted with VHF-radio telemetry collars, under Permit # 1567/2011(Etosha Trans-boundary Lion Project, 2011/ 2012). Shortly after the VHF collars were fitted, one collar (#490) was intermittently functional for approximately 7 months; collars #s 460 + 190 became dysfunctional shortly after the lions were relocated to Duineveld in western Etosha. The sightings noted in 1a. were visual observations by the research team.  

Observations prior to the start of the Hobatere Lion Research Project (March 2013-April 2014) established the presence of the 3 males (1a.); a lioness + 2 cubs (1b.); a lioness (brand-mark X1) + 5 cubs (1c.); a collared lioness (brand mark T—l, brown collar with black battery-pack), (1d.); and a brand-marked (unclear) lioness accompanied by a young adult male (1 f.+ g.), seen numerous times at the Thormaehlen-Cochrane Hunter’s Camp, situated approximately 3.6 km west of the Hobatere western border, reported to move between the hunting camp and the Hobatere border fence (tracks leading to and from Hobatere at fence/road crossing).

The Hobatere Lion Research Project commenced in May 2013, with 2 trail cameras placed at each of the waterholes Campsite and Lodge; the team began familiarising themselves with the other water-points (non-fucntional), tracks and roads within Hobatere as well as along the boundary fence.

No lion reacted positively to calling-stations, neither was lion observed despite nocturnal roaring & track observations and only a few lion were visible on the trail cameras during May and June; in order to habituate the lion to the research vehicles, it was decided to commence with baiting stations.

Most livestock farmers regard lion as 'vermin'; there is also an element of fear when men, women and children traverse the veldt between villages or in search of their livestock. The Ehirovipuka Conservancy, (along the south-western, western and northern boundaries) is one of few where the concept of wildlife conservation and the value of lion linked to tourism (non-consumptive and consumptive), is well established; however, mitigating the farmer-lion conflict remains challenging when lion leave the protected Hobatere Concession area, following wandering livestock and the herds of prey animals who migrate in search of water and grazing or browse (tracks and sightings of zebra, oryx, eland and springbok back and forth through the broken sections of the border fence), the unprotected herds of livestock on farmland offer easy prey.

The so-called 'Hobatere lions' have been persecuted by farmers and trophy hunted (Ehirovipuka quota 2 per annum and Xpl-20 shot Oct.2010, ref. Thormaehlen&Cochrane Hunting Safaris website) along its borders for many years (AfriCat reports 2002-2010). Many farmers possess rifles & gin-traps (leg-hold) and use poison (Strichnine and Temmic, a nematode poison). The Thormaehlen & Cochrane Hunter’s Camp lies approximately 3.6 km from the western Hobatere fence, within the Ehirovipuka Conservancy; until recently, a large section of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) was flattened and a well-used road made its way from the hunter’s camp into Hobatere.

On a number of occasions, the AfriCat Toyota 4x4 Land Cruisers have been used on patrols along the Hobatere borders, often using spotlights & calling stations, also firing shotgun-shots into the night, to chase lion back into Hobatere.

The same vehicle-type is used by the Hunting Outfitter and a number of livestock farmers along Hobatere’s borders.

Discussions with Dr. Sam Ferreira, Large Mammal Ecologist at SANParks, Kruger National Park, clearly warned us that 'lions associate certain vehicles with certain activities and when dealing with lions that have had interactions with humans and been persecuted, a lot of patience and extreme silence is required' (pers. comm. Dr. Sam Ferreira, August 2013).

Thus, baiting-stations were established in close proximity to each waterhole during July 2013, with the last bait placed on 04.12.2013, when the first rains fell and the wildlife infrequently visited these waterholes. August 2013, four additional trail cameras were placed at the waterholes as well as at various game-trails and river crossings frequented by lions (track observations).

A total number of 30 942 trail camera visuals were taken at five locations; approximately 8 377 confirmed trail camera visuals of lions were recorded between May 2013 and February 2014.

The first visuals of the adult lioness (X1) + 5 cubs and an adult male were taken on 12.05.2013, on a giraffe-kill, Campsite waterhole. During year 1, a total number of 21 trail camera sightings were taken of X1 and her 5 cubs.

Nocturnal stake-outs at the Campsite numbered 6, scheduled according to trail camera visuals and reports of sightings and calls by the camp assistant as well as Etosha rangers.

06+07.09. 2013, Dr Frans Joubert attempted darting lioness X1 at the Campsite bait; only the 5 cubs were observed on the bait (zebra heads donated by the MET culling team); at 07h00 on 07.09., lioness X1 was seen on the hill behind the bait, calling to her cubs.

An adult lioness with 2 cubs was first observed May 2013 in company with lioness X1 at Campsite. During June 2013, an adult lioness + 2 cubs were sighted approximately 2 km east of the Lodge waterhole.
07+08.07.2013 the first darting attempt at this lioness was undertaken (Veterinarian: Dr Frans Joubert); the dart did not hit home.
26+27.07.2013, two more attempts were made at darting this lioness; no sighting.

One other lioness (brand-mark T—l, named ‘Black-Collared Lioness’) was frequently seen on the trail camera visuals (approx. 685 visuals in total); at first solitary, then in July 2013 seen with 2 small cubs in the company of the lioness with 2 larger cubs.

27.10. 2013, one lioness was fitted with a GPS-Satellite collar under Permit # 1790/2013; according to the trail camera visuals, this is the same lioness + 2 cubs which Dr Joubert attempted to dart in July. Prior to the collaring, the AfriCat team spent a total of 8 nights at the bait in anticipation of this group appearing; the darting stake-outs coincided with the lions’ proximity to the Lodge waterhole (indicated by trail camera visuals), the availability of a Veterinarian as well as the MET zebra culling programme.

 

2. What are the activity patterns of lions located in Hobatere?

The Hobatere Lion Research Project (hereafter HLRP) commenced at the end of the 2012/13 rain season, where the total precipitation in this area was well below average (less than 250mm / annum). January & February 2013 were extremely dry with the last precipitation measured 28.03 – 01.04.2013, filling the dam at the Hobatere Campsite; by mid-May, the dam had dried up and the only wildlife water points within the 34 000 ha Hobatere were Campsite Waterhole and Lodge Waterhole (see Hobatere map below).

hobatere map mar2014

(Courtesy of Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Etosha Ecological Institute, 2014)

 

The distance between the two waterholes is approx. 11.6 km. Animals frequenting the Campsite Waterhole could also make use of waterholes within western Etosha National Park (ENP) (the distances after each water point indicate distance from the Campsite waterhole); See Hobatere Map p7: i.e. Rhino Bomas (approx. 4 km), Kaross-Hoek (approx.12.5 km), Kaross- Fontein (approx.10 km), Otjovazandu-Fontein (approx. 7.6 km). Equiinus (approx. 9 km) and Renostervlei (approx. 27 km).

One lioness, 'SPOTS', was immobilized by Dr Carl-Heinz Moeller and fitted with a GPS-Satellite Collar, on 27.10.2013 at the Lodge Waterhole.

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

GPS waypoints have been downloaded for 4 months, providing a clear movement pattern for the SPOTS-pride.

The Google Map (1) below, indicates SPOTS’ movements from 27.10 – 31.10.2013, with the Lodge Waterhole the point from which she moved eastwards and southwards for approx. 2-4 kms, along the ephemeral Kaross River.

google map1 spots

Between 27.10.2013 – 30.01.2014, the SPOTS-pride did not venture close to the boundary fence; on 10.02. at approximately 07h00, the SPOTS-pride ventured out of the Hobatere Concession area for the first time in 3.5 months, moving approx. 1.35 km into farmland where they remained for 2 days, returning to Hobatere on 13.02. (see Google Map 2., below)

The Google Map (2) below, indicates SPOTS’ movements between 10-13.02.2014, showing multiple cross-border (red-line) movement. Using GPS waypoints, the AfriCat Research team monitored the exact cross-over points, some at flattened stretches of fence-line; other exit points were weakened with loose wires making it easy to climb through the fence. Upon SPOTS’ return to Hobatere on 13.02., she was observed climbing through and jumping over a broken section of the fence.

google map2 hobatere

below: Lioness T—l, one of the SPOTS-pride, inside the Veterinary corridor, then crossing the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) along the Hobatere sw border; note the absence of the top section of the VCF at the cross-over point.

15 lions between fences1 16 lions between fences1 17 lions between fences1

Due to the drought conditions, the preferred prey base, Hartmann’s Zebra - Equus zebra hartmanni, Oryx – Oryx gazella, Giraffe – Giraffa camelopardalis giraffe, were dependant on and did not range far from, the waterholes Campsite and Lodge; the majority of lion kills were found in close proximity to the Lodge Waterhole (see Google Map 3, below).

The Google map (3) below, indicates lion kills (red icons K) within the 34 000 ha Hobatere Concession Area (east of the 'red-line') and one kill to the west, on communal farmland. The ‘red-line’ indicates the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF). The points indicated represent 15 locations between 27.10.2013 – 28.02.2014, where SPOTS spent an average of 35.333 hours. The majority carcasses found were of mature and immature zebra, two giraffe and four kills were confirmed livestock. The kill/carcass on communal farmland dt.10.02.2014 could not be found due to rough terrain, thus it was not confirmed to be livestock.

google map3 lion kills

Once the first rains had fallen and the grazing improved towards the end of January 2014, so the herbivores gradually moved further afield, the lions following; livestock presence in Hobatere however increased.

 

The Google Map (4) below, indicates SPOTS’ gradual movement westwards during February 2014, closer to the 'red-line', when she crosses onto farmland 10.02.2014.

google map2 spots

Communal farmland lies adjacent to the Hobatere Concession Area to the south, west and north; the fence separating farmland from the Hobatere wilderness area is porous, often flattened by elephant for 50-100m and holes dug underneath by burrowing animals such as warthog. The cross-border movement of wildlife and livestock influences lion movement to a large extent, with cattle and donkeys providing easy prey. Extreme drought conditions on farmland resulted in cattle especially, moving into Hobatere in search of grazing and water; some never made it back to the settlements but those returning by nightfall, would attract lions out of Hobatere.

 

The Google Map (5) below shows livestock mortalities (red pin) as well as livestock presence within Hobatere, inside of the Veterinary corridor (no-man’s-land) and in close proximity to the Hobatere border fence (VCF) (brown pin). The horse attack (northern border) took place inside of the Veterinary corridor, as well as 3 livestock (cattle) mortalities; at least 4 confirmed livestock carcasses were found inside of Hobatere, one bearing a blue ear tag indicating its origin north of the VCF; the other a yellow ear tag, belonging to a farmer south of the VCF. The brown pins indicate the presence of livestock, one pin depicting approx.10-50 cattle. The black line indicates the southern boundary between Hobatere and the !Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy; this boundary fence is in major disrepair, hence the easy movement in and out of Hobatere.

google map5 livestock

 

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

The southern boundary of Hobatere, which stretches from the south-western corner of the Kaross Block (western ENP) to the Kamdescha Veterinary Control Gate, is approx. 18-20 km in length (see Google Map 5, above); large sections of this fence have been flattened by elephant seeking water on farmland, providing easy entry and exit for wildlife, including predators and livestock (visuals 17+18 below). The farming settlements of Marienhoehe & Kameeldoring are based approx. 25m from this fence, while Middelpos, Quo Vadis and Kamdescha 1+2, range from 500m to approx. 7 km away (!Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy) (see Hobatere Map p7).

Damaged fences and kraals, livestock move in and out of Hobatere daily, often remaining inside during the night:

hampton kraal fences down unherded-livestock

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). 2007, one of the waterpoints in Hobatere (De Wildt), situated only 1.5 km from the boundary fence, dried up forcing herds of elephants out of Hobatere onto adjacent farmland (flattened fences, reports, sightings, elephant tracks, dung, broken branches, installation destruction are proof of regular elephant presence). 2007-2010 saw the start of the AfriCat Livestock Protection Programme (LPP) along the Hobatere southern boundary, whereby eight (8) nocturnal livestock kraals were upgraded or built in order to provide a safe-haven for cattle, horses, donkeys, goats and sheep. (Jeremias Urib, farmer Marienhoehe, lost 46 goats before his kraal was upgraded by AfriCat, thereafter no losses; Farmer Lantine has lost no goats since her kraal was built 2011;one cow who spent the night in the field was reported missing, the carcass found close to Lantine’s home). Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the farmers along the southern boundary ceased to repair the fence and to date the kraals are only used sporadically. Livestock is often seen within Hobatere during the day and at night (see Google Map 5.), 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 Hobater southern boundary).

Farmers & herdsmen set gin-traps (leg-hold) and wire snares, killing any trapped animal found.

gin trap-hobs-marienhoehe-boundary

Leg-hold trap-site in Hobatere sn boundary

game guard
Wire snare set in Hobatere sn boundary fence, removed during AfriCat nocturnal patrol.

The western and northern boundaries of Hobatere form part of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF or Red Line) (see Hobatere Map. p7); the farming communities of Werda and the 'Sesfontein farmers' are settled against the fence, whilst Onguta, Orongurru and Arisona villages are based 1-10 km from the fence.

The western and northern boundaries run along mountainous (elevations up to 1300m) and riverine terrain, the river crossings being preferred exits. During the drought of 2012/13 and as recently as February 2014, livestock forced their way into the Veterinary Cordon corridor and into Hobatere (visuals 21+22, below) attracted by the only available grazing for vast distances; this has directly contributed to the outward movement of lions and the predation of livestock.

boundary horse
Emaciated horse found within the Veterinary corridor, attacked by lions in the corridor.
environmental weekend
Bull carcass found inside of Hobatere – blue ear-tag indicates
his origin north of the VCF.

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

During year 1 of the HLRP, no lions were found outside of Hobatere for any length of time (SPOTS-pride spent 2 days outside of Hobatere, then returned, ref. Google maps 2+4); 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.

At this point, we have no knowledge regarding the movement between Hobatere and western Etosha.

 

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

The SPOTS-pride, comprising 2 adult females and 4 cubs, between the ages of 6 – 16 months, infrequently visited by one or more of the 3 'known' males, have successfully hunted and raised at least 2 cubs to above 12 months of age.There is no evidence of their movement into western ENP.

Lioness X1 and 5 cubs (born approx. October 2012), have been seen at the Campsite Waterhole, along the northern boundary close to Werda Veterinary Control Gate as well as approx. 5 kms into Hobatere along the main entrance road. There is no evidence of their movement into western ENP. However, the infrequent observations of the X1-pride at the Campsite Waterhole, suggests that this group moves back and forth between Hobatere and western ENP.

 

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

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

 

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

7.1 Until the numbers and population dynamics of the so-called Hobatere lions have been established, the lion hunting quota should be put on hold; despite the fact that only 2 lions (one male and one female) were on quota 2013 for Thormaehlen & Cochrane Hunting Safaris and only one male lion for 2014, there is no research data yet available to establish whether or not this off-take is sustainable. Observations thus far indicate that only three males frequent the 2 waterholes, 2 females (SPOTS and T—l) have been resident since 27.10.2013 and one female (X1) may move back and forth between western ENP and Hobatere. Further research and monitoring may show that the above-mentioned lions all move back and forth between western ENP and Hobatere, seasonally. At this point in time, each of the 3 known lionesses have cubs; should one of these lionesses be shot as a trophy, the cubs have little chance of survival due to the fact that in the case of the i) SPOTS-pride, the remaining female would find it difficult to protect and feed 4 cubs of differing age groups; ii) should X1 be shot, her 5 cubs have a low chance of survival on their own. iii) we do not know which of the three males is dominant, thus random off-take may remove the stronger male with the full, black mane leaving the weaker males as mates.

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

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

7.4 Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation measures include: 7.4.1. erecting strong, 2m high nocturnal kraals or repairing and upgrading existing kraals, for use when the lions are in the area; 7.4.2. re-instating herdsmen to take care of the livestock during the day whilst in the field; 7.4.3. 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.

 

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

As far as can be ascertained through the monitoring of the SPOTS-pride, this group of 6 would be regarded as occasional stock-raiders. Further studies will establish the regularity of movement onto farmland.

 

9. The Hobatere Lion Research Project

Aims at collaring all the known adults (5) as well as any other lions found within the Hobatere Concession area.

 

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).

 

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