The Last of Our Surprising Visit to find the Vanishing Desert Lions – Part 4 of 4

Desert lions are elusive and few. Izak and Inki share their amazing quest to find them in Namibia.

The Last of Our Surprising Visit to find the Vanishing Deseret Lions - Part 4 of 4

Angela – Photo by Inki Mandt

Sadly it all adventures come to an end. Here is the Part 4 of Izak and Inki’s amazing visit in search of the desert lions of Namibia.

These two amazing people are with Desert Lions Human Relationship Aid (DeLHRA) and are determined to protect Namibia’s lions from human-wildlife conflicts.

[If you missed any… catch up with Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3]

Izak’s story continues…

We have never been lucky enough to have seen the Huab Pride in the Mikberg area. We always had to be satisfied with tracks, sometimes even very fresh ones! The broken terrain just makes it highly unlikely that one will get a visual on them and one should not even dream of driving off the 4×4 tracks in this or any other of these pristine and sensitive areas!! We continued without really holding our breaths as we expected the same as before….nothing!

After a thorough scan through the Swarovski x 10 binoculars (our best investment ever, thanks Inki) i was just about to put it down when suddenly something did not make graphical sense, just a tiny disturbance of the graphical flow. I now strained my eyes to the point where they almost came out the other side of the binoculars and………whispered…..”Inki i see an ear..” . Within nanoseconds Inki s bean bag was put up and the 600 mm “bazooka lens” aimed at the spot i was watching…..! Funny how, once your eyes stop arguing with your brain, you suddenly literally get the picture!

Minki - 1st night in Huab

Minki – photo by Inki Mandt

There they were, seeing them against the rising sun looking “up-sun” was quite a challenge! XPL 75 and Minki, the younger uncollared female and the two 3 month old cubs appeared and came closer. XPL 76 who is clearly pregnant, was not seen but presumably nearby, maybe positioning for a hunt as there were Hartmann Mountain Zebra nearby. Basking in the first rays of sunlight after a cold night and totally at peace, coming within about 40 paces of old “Bosluis”, our 18 year old 4×4 camper, the cubs gave us quite a show whilst annoying their poor mom!

After Inki’s camera’s were rattling away in a Pirhana-like feeding frenzy for a while, we decided not to overstay our welcome and maybe spoil a hunt in progress and routed South, elated that we got to see the Huab Lions a third time in about a week!

Ugab cub - Inki Mandt desert lions

Ugab cub – photo by Inki Mandt

Arriving at Probeer pos, North East of Doros Crater, we were welcomed by very fresh tracks on the road of the Ugab Pride including the Makhulu Boss (Big boss in Nguni language), XPL 99, Gretzky’s easily distinguished monster tracks! The Playboy of Damaraland has opted to spend some time with his Ugab family again for a while it seemed!

We were happy to find the Save the Rhino rangers camping out nearby, diligently patrolling the areas. They were blurry eyed and looked somewhat tired. They apparently have been “revved up”, (army talk for being harassed and disturbed/having contact with the enemy), by old Gretzky during the night while he must ve been looking for the females.

We carried on down the Goantachab river as there were fresh tracks in abundance going towards the Doros river junction….exactly as it happened less than two weeks before..! It really felt like Deja Vu……! We hoped for a better outcome than the previous encounter when we missed them by minutes as they disappeared past the spring at the junction….

You’ve guessed it…………things panned out exactly the same as the previous time…….the good AND the bad news was that after the summer rain season the track to the fountain that used to be drivable has now been destroyed as large rocks now blocked the access. Game and predators alike can now visit the spring without the disturbance of vehicles that used to drive right up to the little spring.

Missy,the Ugab Female

Missy – photo by Inki Mandt

We left and drove via the SRT camp to our camping spot which would take us close to a point where the pride might resurface the next morning. We never camp in the Ugab river as that is a bad idea for many reasons. The same holds true for all Namibia s ephemeral rivers even though it looks so inviting and ideal for camping. It causes a huge disturbance to the wildlife as the river is relatively confined and animals have to walk far to get to waterholes. Also large cubs/young sub adults passing by could become inquisitive and Elephant cows with calves will stress and some bulls insist on visiting their favorite trees. Rhino in the area also pose a danger as they do not react well to surprises and disturbances! Not to mention the flash floods that come without warning in the rainy season, always unannounced! We prefer camping in an open, preferably slightly elevated area where neither us or any animal will be surprised by the other’s presence.

The next morning it became clear that the Lions did not choose their preferred route and we consoled ourselves with the thought that they might have had a successful hunt near the spring, which was far more important than us getting a sighting. Raising 6, almost sub-adults under the harsh desert conditions is a tall order and one disturbance could set back the pride considerably as they expend much energy patrolling/hunting their vast home range! This should ALWAYS be considered by all!

We set course for Swakopmund via the SRT/Fly camp, where we first played the Samaritans by towing a Landrover (sorry Nick, it s true) to the camp for assistance…

As always, on the way back we reminisced over our encounters during the last two weeks and discussed the way forward …before we knew it we were home and got a preliminary clean up by our two dogs, Zulu and Grumpy who always mistake us for two soft serve ice,cream cones on our return home from the bush……

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