Endangered Kunene Lion Killed

A RARE male desert lion that has been a valuable source of information for a lion research project in the Kunene Region was killed over the past weekend.

The lion, which was called the ‘Terrace Male’, was found dead near Tomakas, a village between Purros and Sesfontein, on Sunday, it was reported on the website of the Desert Lion Conservation Project yesterday.

The satellite collar with which the lion had been fitted to record its movements was found burnt about 100 metres from the animal’s carcass. The collar last transmitted data on the animal’s whereabouts at 12h33 on Sunday.

The Terrace Male, which was given the research title ‘Xpl-68’, was with a pride of lionesses from the Okongwe area south-east of Purros when he was killed.

Lion researcher Flip Stander, who started the Desert Lion Conservation Project in 1998, said that data from their satellite collars showed that the Okongwe females immediately moved into the northern Okongwe Mountains, possibly due to the disturbance caused by the killing of Xpl-68.

The lion’s carcass and burnt collar were found after two vehicles had been sent to the last location recorded by the Terrace Male’s satellite collar when it was noticed that the collar had stopped transmitting data.

“It would appear that the people responsible for killing the Terrace Male wanted to hide the evidence,” Stander said.

The Terrace Male was born during November 2007. After being fitted with a satellite collar, the lion gained a reputation for its roaming over distances of hundreds of kilometres in Kunene. During August 2012 the Terrace Male was recorded crossing over the Kunene River from Namibia into Angola, where it spent about two weeks before returning across the river to Namibia.

The killing of another male lion in the same area where the Terrace Male met his end appears to have set the stage for the killing of Xpl-68 as well.

Stander recorded on the project’s website that after the lion known as ‘Rosh’ or Xpl-73 was shot on 1 July, the Terrace Male started to explore areas previously used by Xpl-73 and the Okongwe lionesses. That, however, also brought the Terrace Male into danger, since he came into closer contact with humans and livestock.

“[T]he Okongwe lions are well-adapted to living close to people and their livestock. They are cautious and distrustful of vehicles and people, whereas Xpl-68 is naive and oblivious to the dangers,” it was stated on the project’s website on 16 August.

In an effort to get the Terrace Male away from potential conflict with humans, he was relocated to the Hoanib River area further south of Purros in mid-July.

By the end of July, though, he had moved back to the area previously used by Xpl-73, and was in danger again.

Stander said the killing of the Terrace Male was an unfortunate development because the incident could stimulate a public outcry that may question many fundamental aspects of the conservation, communal conservancy and tourism efforts in the region.

The website of the project says that the value of the unique desert lions is of great significance to the Namibian tourism industry, hence the need to ensure the long-term conservation of the lions.

Stander said the killing is being investigated.

Source : The Namibian