Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

New Nomadic Male Lion Seen in the Hoanib


Josephine Bestic


Guides and guests at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp have been thrilled by sightings of a young male lion that has recently moved into the area.


Since the demise of the Five Musketeers in three tragic human-lion conflicts a couple of years ago, the Hoanib Pride and two female pairs (Xpl-69 – Auntie – and her niece Charlie, and a little closer to the coast, Alpha and Bravo, also nieces of 69) have been without a pride male.


We asked the Desert Lion Conservation Project’s Dr Philip Stander – whose research centre for both his lion and Emsie Verwey’s brown hyaena projects is based at the camp – what he could tell us about this young male, known simply as Xpl-131.



“He’s about four years old, and originally from the Hunkap Pride, but currently a nomad, moving between Okongwe, the Hoanib River, Elephant Song and Orowau.



“He may settle in the Hoanib River with either the Hoanib or Floodplain prides, both of which he has been seen with, but is also considered a tremendous threat by Sesfontein livestock farmers whose cattle are currently traversing a substantial section of this drought-stricken area for grazing.



“He is an unusually small male lion, but with a big attitude!”


As of 20 August, he was in camp at Hoanib Skeleton Coast, looking for Xpl-69 – who is having none of his attention!



UPDATE: Xpl-131 was seen mating with Xpl-69 around mid-October, and if all goes well, we hope to welcome the next generation of desert-adapted lions in the Hoanib area early next year.






Thanks to our presence in the Skeleton Coast area for over 20 years, and our partnership with the communities that live here, both lion numbers and people have benefited from tourism. But with increasing lion numbers comes the challenge of increased human-lion conflict.



Our model of ecotourism has helped to find solutions to this: by partnering with the Desert Lion Project through our Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, we enable our guests to understand and appreciate the challenges faced by these unique cats, in the knowledge that their stay with us is helping to ensure their survival.



Founded in 1998, this is a long-term study that aims to reduce conflicts, so as to protect the farmers and to preserve the unique population of desert-adapted lions of the Namib, thus striking a balance between conservation priorities and the needs of the people who share their land with wildlife.



Through Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp and the Wilderness Trust we provide both financial and logistical support to this cause, supporting the inspirational work done by its founder, Dr Philip Stander. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp also supported the making of the Vanishing Kings documentaries, which brought the plight of this population to the world’s attention.







The camp lies in a broad valley looking down on the Hoanib River, its flowing rooftops and award-winning eco-friendly design seemingly part of the ancient landscape. Along with charismatic desert-adapted wildlife, from elephant, lion and giraffe to oryx and brown hyaena, there is the legendary Skeleton Coast, with its stark shores and seal colonies, to explore.



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