In Namibia, Lions Are King of the Seaside | Science

In Namibia, Lions Are King of the Seaside | Science
In Namibia, Lions Are King of the Seaside | Science

After practically 40 years, desert lions are as soon as once more searching marine prey alongside Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, the place scientists believed the information had been misplaced.
Hemis / Alamy

This text is from Hakai Journal, a web-based publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Learn extra tales like this at

On a desolate stretch of Namibia’s arid Skeleton Coast Nationwide Park, an invisible fence is protecting lions and guests aside.

Namibia’s Ministry of Atmosphere, Forestry, and Tourism and the nonprofit Desert Lion Conservation Belief (DLCT) created the digital fence line, generally known as a geofence, to trace lions approaching a 40-kilometer stretch of seashore round Torra Bay, a preferred fishing and tenting space. Every time a lion carrying a satellite tv for pc collar crosses the geofence, the system data the animal’s GPS coordinates and sends automated alerts to the DLCT’s lion rangers and managers of the native campsite, who shut the realm to guests.

The early warning system is in response to numerous probably harmful incidents between lions and folks. In a single final 12 months, a celebration of leisure anglers obtained too near a lioness on a seashore close to Torra Bay, and the animal charged their automobile.

Luckily, nobody was injured, however the odds of aggressive interactions are growing as Namibia’s desert lions re-establish themselves on the Skeleton Coast.

Lions in Namibia’s northwest, famend for eking out a residing amid the Namib Desert’s harsh gravel plains and countless dunes, have a historical past of feeding on marine species, corresponding to Cape fur seals, beached whales, and cormorants. Remarkably, they’re the one lions recognized to focus on marine prey. However within the Eighties, the desert lions deserted the coast after native farmers worn out many of the inhabitants.

When lions returned in 2002, it was an indication that the inhabitants was recovering. However the animals have been now not searching marine prey, and lion ecologist Philip Stander, who based DLCT, frightened that the inhabitants had misplaced the information.

Within the final eight years, although, three orphaned lionesses, recognized to the researchers as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, have led a coastal searching revival on the seashores round Torra Bay. The resurgence is thrilling, but it surely has additionally introduced dangers; it was doubtless one in every of these lions—or a fourth, generally known as Xpl-108—who charged the anglers’ automobile final 12 months.

The lionesses began focusing on coastal prey in 2015, when a drought decimated the park’s mountain zebras, springboks, oryxes, and ostriches. To interchange these dietary staples, the younger lionesses turned to marine birds, primarily cormorants, flamingos, and red-billed teals.

Then, in 2018, DLCT scientists noticed the lionesses searching fur seals—a few of the first lions to take action in 4 a long time. In a subsequent food regimen examine that spanned 18 months, Stander noticed that marine meals, significantly cormorants, seals, and flamingos, accounted for 86 p.c of the lionesses’ food regimen.

“It’s fascinating to comply with from a biologist’s perspective,” says Félix Vallat, the DLCT’s venture coordinator. “It’s information that has been misplaced. Now it’s slowly coming again.”

One native who’s significantly excited concerning the lions’ coastal revival is Naude Dreyer.

Dreyer, who runs kayaking safaris in Walvis Bay, 350 kilometers to the south, had longed to see a desert lion since he was 5 years previous. In January 2022, after a three-decade wait, he noticed two of the lionesses individually on the seashore close to Torra Bay and photographed one as she consumed a fur seal towards the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

“She appeared up a number of instances whereas consuming however didn’t show any aggression,” says Dreyer, who saved his distance.

Coastal Lion Eating Prey

When a drought decimated zebra, springbok, oryx, and ostrich numbers, Namibia’s desert lions turned to searching cormorants, flamingos, and even fur seals to outlive.

Courtesy of Naude Dreyer

The lioness Dreyer photographed was doubtless Xpl-108, who spent greater than 30 days within the geofenced space from late November by means of January. She, Alpha, and Bravo have all been fitted with satellite tv for pc collars, and the monitoring venture is as a lot for the lions as it’s to maintain guests protected.

Vacationers crowding the seashores throughout peak seasons, corresponding to southern Africa’s current December–January holidays, may disrupt the lions’ searching exercise or push the animals inland, towards battle with farmers.

As a security measure, the geofence isn’t excellent. One night time, Xpl-108 slipped right down to the coast and killed a fur seal. The subsequent morning, anglers arrived to fish earlier than the rangers may cordon off the seashore and startled Xpl-108, who dragged her meal 4 kilometers inland to the security of a rocky outcrop.

However proof from elsewhere means that the venture ought to work. Matthew Wijers, a postdoctoral lion researcher from the College of Oxford in England, who shouldn’t be a part of the desert lion venture, says that though expensive, geofencing has been efficient in different components of southern Africa.

“This know-how, coupled with academic packages that spotlight the ecological significance of desert lions in addition to the potential risks to the general public, ought to assist cut back the dangers of battle between lions and anglers alongside the Skeleton Coast,” he says.

Whether or not the lionesses will proceed to hold round Torra Bay is an open query. After practically eight years, Namibia’s drought seems to have lastly damaged. In that point, the lion inhabitants fell from 150 to 80 animals. Vallat predicts that inside a 12 months or two, the lions’ land-based prey—and hopefully lion numbers—ought to rebound.

Within the meantime, Vallat hopes that the geofence will preserve everybody protected.

This text is from Hakai Journal, a web-based publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Learn extra tales like this at

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