News 2016

 lions in hobatere namibia

AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (AHLRP) Update 2016
In Africa, lions are mainly restricted to larger parks, reserves, and the remaining wilderness areas in savannas, covering no more than 20–25 % of their historic range (IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group 2006b; Riggio et al. 2012). Range collapse has been accompanied by plummeting lion numbers. Reliable population estimates for elusive, often nocturnal predators are notoriously difficult, but a variety of estimates converge at roughly 32,000 (Riggio et al. 2012). Rates of decline are alarming, as the number of African lions has fallen 30% over the past two decades (three lion generations) and perhaps by 48.5% since 1980 (IUCN 2012).

 environmental education namibia

The AfriCat Foundation Environmental Education Programme 2016
"There is no Relevant Education without Environmental Education." Fortunately more and more people are realizing the absolute necessity of Environmental Education and our programme is becoming better known and more sought after. Consequently we are reaching more young people and teachers which in essence is the main goal of the project. Brief summary of the project for which the grant was allocated: The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme includes, where possible, both AfriCat centers: AfriCat Head Quarters on Okonjima farm, Otjozondjupa Region (central Namibia) and AfriCat North, the field base along Etosha’s south-western boundary, Kunene Region (northwest Namibia). 2016 has been a year of even greater challenges for the AfriCat Foundation in its drive to conserve and protect Namibia’s carnivores, simultaneously encouraging and supporting farming communities living with carnivores: into the fourth year of a crippling drought, farmers have lost large numbers of their livestock and those still alive are emaciated, with little chance of survival; the carnivores, preying on the weak and slow, intensify the Human-Wildlife Conflict in most areas. 

 lion examination AfriCat

AfriCat's Annual Health Check 2016
From the 26th of June to the 7th of July 2016, the AfriCat team immobilized 27 cheetahs, 1 leopard and 1 lion at the AfriCat Foundation for their annual health examinations and to collect samples for our registered, research project (The long-term health monitoring and immuno-competence of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and other felids at AfriCat in Namibia – Permit no. 2184/2016). Three leopards and 2 male lions were not immobilized, but visually inspected for any abnormalities. All the animals were weighed. Blood and urine samples were collected and haematology and serum biochemistry profiles performed for each animal. They were vaccinated against feline calici virus, feline panleucopaenia virus, feline herpes virus and feline rhinotracheitis. They were also vaccinated against rabies. Abdominal ultrasound examinations were performed on all the anaesthetized animals and gastric biopsies were collected from all the cheetahs using a flexible endoscope to assess the extent of gastritis in this captive population.

 cheetah undergoing a health check in the namibian bush

Ultrasonographic adrenal gland findings in healthy semi-captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
Cheetahs are known to be particularly vulnerable to a number of clinical conditions when in captivity. Some of these conditions, such as gastritis and gastric ulcers, have been linked to increased stress levels in other species. In order to determine how much of a role stress plays in these conditions in cheetahs, scientists need to be able to measure stress in some way. Until now this has mainly been achieved by looking at levels of glucocorticoids ("stress hormones") – mainly cortisol – in the animals’ faeces. This method has its drawbacks, though. Not only are there practical difficulties when it comes to sampling – especially in free-ranging animals, or animals kept in groups - but it also gives a narrow picture, as it reflects only corticoid values within the 12-24 hours prior to the sample being produced.

World Lion Day 2016
The Harsh Reality . . . "One year ago, with the loss of Cecil, . . . . people and initiatives fighting to save the lion"- Dr Luke Hunter, President, Panthera. With the most recent and detailed report on the status of the African lion published by Panthera, 'Beyond Cecil: Africa’s Lions in Crisis', those of us who truly care are numbed by the shocking statistics and atrocities that have come to light: - Lion populations have plummeted by 43% in the past 20 years, to an estimated 20 000; in the same time-frame, populations in West, Central and East have collectively dropped by 60%; - Lions have lost 75% of their original habitat in the past 100 years, lions now only occupy 8% of their historical range (which once spanned an area of over 13 million km2), and according to reports have disappeared entirely from 12 African countries, with possible recent extinction in four more;

Laparoscopic salpingectomy in two captive leopards using a single portal access system
(A new surgical technique for sterilizing leopards is described for the first time). Ongoing collaboration with scientists and the conservation authorities and working closely with the farming community allows for studies to be conducted that provide valuable information on large carnivores and their long-term conservation in Namibia. AfriCat has been involved in a number of studies involving the carnivore 'ambassadors' at AfriCat, captive and free-roaming. The annual health examinations of the cats at AfriCat give invited specialist veterinarians the opportunity to conduct research of various aspects of animal health, particularly those relating to the health of large carnivores in captivity.

AfriCat Rescues 9 'Deserted' Wild Dog Pups!
It was Sunday, the 26th of June – the evening before AfriCat’s annual health check was about to start . . . Team AfriCat and the participating vets were in preparation for an early start the following day, when we received a phone call after sunset from the Chairperson of Okamatapati Conservancy (a communal conservancy approx. 160 km east of Okonjima) - a communal farmer was in possession of nine orphaned Wild Dog pups. Wild Dog usually dig their dens and give birth during the dry months June, July and August. The denning period of approximately three months, is the only time of the year when Wild Dogs return to the same location every day, limiting their mobility which can result in a decreased encounter rate with prey species.

Hyperthermia in Cheetahs
Although not many people are aware of the fact, one of the most frequent causes of deaths in cheetahs during immobilisation is hyperthermia (overheating). This phenomenon has not been studied or described much at all, but the annual health checks at AfriCat have provided Dr. Adrian Tordiffe and colleagues a unique opportunity to study and learn more about this problem - to try and understand what causes it, and to begin to develop ways of managing and preventing it. In cheetahs who develop hyperthermia, temperatures measured shortly after darting can be over 40℃ and are sometimes still rising. If the body temperature is not brought down rapidly this can have severe consequences for the cheetah - brain damage, damage to the digestive tract and/or cardiorespiratory failure.

Ultrasonographic and laparoscopic evaluation of the reproductive tract in older captive female cheetahs (Acinonoyx jubatus)
(Assessing the value of transabdominal ultrasound in monitoring the reproductive status of cheetahs). In order to manage the reproduction of a population of animals, it is very useful to be able to determine where the females are in terms of their breeding cycle. When it comes to cheetahs, there are a number of non-invasive, field-friendly ways of doing this, including measuring hormone levels, looking at cells taken from the reproductive tract, and ultrasound. Unlike the other two methods, transabdominal diagnostic ultrasound (where the animal is scanned through the abdominal wall) has the advantage in that there is no need to wait for results from a laboratory after sampling.

Effect of portal access system and surgery type on surgery times during laparoscopic ovariectomy and salpingectomy in captive African lions and cheetahs
(Comparing surgical techniques in order to make sterilization surgery safer for wild lions and cheetahs). There are a number of reasons why the management of population numbers of large cats such as lions and cheetahs is becoming more important. There are stricter controls on hunting, and increasing numbers of free-ranging lions in smaller parks. Predator overpopulation leads to increasing threat to antelope (prey species) populations in these areas, and so, in order to maintain balance in these environments, predator numbers need to be managed. One of the ways in which this can be done is by the surgical sterilization of breeding animals.

The AfriCat Okonjima Predator Population Density Study: Phase 5
Preliminary results PHASE 5: Eland Dam - North Dam 23 March - 11 May 2016. The fifth block of the study area was monitored from the 23rd March 2016 until 11th May 2016. The block is located in the north-western part of the reserve and is covering an area of 44.7 km2. The area is hosting three water reservoirs which are artificially supplied with water during the dry season (April - October) and thus, perennially accessible. The area is mainly characterized by a thorny bush- and scrub savanna interspersed with newly opened patches of open grass savanna. Elevation ranges between 1580 and 1640 meters above sea level. Most common prey occurring in the area includes oryx (Oryx gazella), plain zebra (Equus quagga), common eland (Tragelaphus eland) and common warthog (Phacochaerus africanus). 

Mamma AfriCat and Lion Schools
An Amazing week with AfriCat, including three days in the communities of Northern Namibia with one of Africa’s most inspiring conservationists, Tammy Hoth followed by a further four days at Okonjima with Donna Hanssen and her wonderful team, to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Charity and to witness a perfect example of conservation, education and research working together. Human wildlife conflict is a perpetual battle but by AfriCat providing funding for formal education, research, Lion Guards, and other structural support the buy in of local communities can be and is being achieved and it’s a battle that can have a successful outcome for all.

 The Cheetahs known as the Motorbikes

The AfriCat Motorbikes, Harley, Aprilia, Ducati and their mate Starsky!
The beginnings . . . . Harley, and his two sisters, Ducati and Aprilia - aka 'The Motorbikes' - arrived at AfriCat at the age of five months back in 2009. Their mother was shot, and after the farmer caught the orphaned cubs he kept them in a chicken cage for four weeks. Yet again another sad story of the condition of cats when they arrived at AfriCat . . . They all showed signs of calcium deficiency, skew legs and limps, however, after getting introduced to the right food enriched with vitamins and mineral supplements, their condition improved visibly. Starsky came to AfriCat together with his brother, Hutch, as three-month old cubs; sharing the same history as The Motorbikes - their mother had also been shot.

 Simon runs for AfriCat London Marathon 2016

London Marathon April 2016
Congratulations Simon on a brilliant running time of 2 hours 57 mins and 1 sec achieving the challenge you set yourself. The additional funds from those who offered to double their donations if you ran under 3 hours are particularly welcomed! The money raised by Simon will be used to employ further Lion Guards at AfriCat North – a vital job working to help the local communities and farmers live together with the lions. Can we achieve the £3,500 needed?

To make a donation click running free

wild dogs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve
The AfriCat Wild Dogs - Messi, Jogi and Robin

A successful integration. After the successful integration of our 10-year old wild female dog, Ricky, into the pack FIFA, which consists of the three orphaned pups Jogi, Messi and Robin, the newly established pack are finally roaming every corner of the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve! With Ricky being an experienced and skillful hunter, Team FIFA quickly learned and adapted to the rules of the wild, and started hunting regularly after only four weeks following their release in July 2015. The rehabilitation of wild dogs often fails due to lack of hunting abilities and survival skills. However, research has shown that animals raised in captivity obtain hunting skills more rapidly when they are released with those which have also been caught in the wild, compared to a rehabilitated group which solely consists of animals reared in captivity.

leopard caught on camera bait trap
The AfriCat Okonjima Predator Population Density Study Phase 4

Preliminary results PHASE 4: Dam Lise - Buffalo Dam 26 January - 15 March 2016. The fourth block of the study area was monitored from the 26th January 2016 until 15th March 2016. The block is located in the north-eastern part of the reserve (Fig. 1) and is covering an area of 34.9 km2. The area is hosting four water reservoirs which are all artificially supplied with water during the dry season (April - October) and thus, perennially accessible. The area is mainly characterized by a thorny bush- and scrub savanna interspersed with patches of open grass savanna and a dry river system in the central part of the area. Elevation ranges between 1580 and 1640 meters above sea level. 

 AfriCat UK visit AfriCat north
A Word From The AfriCat UK Chairman, David Farquharson

"Last week, as part of my role as Chairman of the UK charity AfriCat, I had the privilege of spending three days in the communities of Northern Namibia with one of Africa’s most inspiring conservationists, Tammy Hoth-Hanssen. In her role as director of the AfriCat Foundation, Tammy and her small team of Lion Guards work tirelessly to address the multitude of issues arising out of human-wildlife conflict. Tammy’s team work particularly in the area west and north west of Etosha where the protected Hobatere Concession meets communal farmlands head on. With a drought that stretches back four years and very little support for the maintenance of fences, lions and livestock are on a dangerous collision course. "

 african wild dog in northern Namibia
Namibian African Wild Dog Project Update

Annual Report 2015, Prepared by Stuart Munro and Dr. Rudie van Vuuren 
2015 saw the Namibia African Wild Dog Project (NAWDP) experience both positives and negatives with respect to the monitoring of the wild dog populations on the Kavango Cattle Ranch (KCR) and the Mangetti National Park (MNP) in northern Namibia. Visits to the sites for the monitoring of motion-sensitive trail cameras were limited to 5 separate occasions due to time and personnel constraints. An aerial game census was carried out in August, the results of which recorded diminished game numbers from preceding counts. There were no recorded wild dog mortalities or disturbance of dens on the KCR during 2015 however several dogs denning in the MNP were shot on adjacent livestock farmland.

Okonjima - Where Tourism Supports Conservation

Published by Travel News Namibia April 4, 2016
Text and photographs Annabelle Venter
Read this story on the Travel News Namibia Website.

Shortly after my arrival at Plains Camp on a hot midsummer’s noon I’m drifting in a cool, round pool with corrugated iron sides. A Stewarts & Lloyds windmill clinks hypnotically overhead, slowly grinding to a halt as the breeze subsides. One could be forgiven for thinking one is on an African farm, but of course that’s exactly what the Hanssen family wants you to experience.

 leopard caught on camera trap namibia
The AfriCat Okonjima Predator Population Density Study Phase 3
Preliminary results PHASE 3: Serenjima 10 November - 29 December 2015. The third block of the study area was monitored from the 10th November 2015 until 29th December 2015. The block is located in the central-western part of the reserve (Fig. 1) and is covering an area of 34.8 km2. The area is hosting six water reservoirs of which two are artificially supplied with water and thus, perennially accessible. The area is characterized by an open grass savanna which is bordering block one in the south and a thorny bush - and scrub savanna covering the majority of the region. Elevation ranges between 1584 and 1630 meters above sea level. Due to a seasonal climate with the rainy season between October and March, the area received approximately 80 mm of precipitation during the sampling period.


 cheetah ambassador Morticia of the Adams Family
AfriCat Says Goodbye to Morticia
AfriCat says good-bye to one of the Adams family – 14 year old Morticia!
Morticia was one of our cheetah ambassadors at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre. Morticia and her three siblings, Pugsley, Gomez and Wednesday are the four, well-known cheetahs @ AfriCat, also known as ‘The Addams Family’ They were removed from their mother’s womb after she had been shot.


 farmer in northern namibia
The 'Karibib' Lions - A Report by Team AfriCat
On Tuesday, 9 February 2016, AfriCat got a call from a concerned farmer in the Karibib area (western Namibia, bordering the edge of the Namibia desert. The ‘Namib’ is a coastal desert in southern Africa. The name Namib is of Nama origin and means “vast place” ) . His farm is about 20 kilometers southwest of Karibib. He reported lion activity in the area and that fresh tracks were found that morning in a riverbed; possibly 3 animals but no size, age nor sex could be ascertained. One of the neighbouring farmers also informed him that the same morning one of their horses had been attacked – possibly by a lion? On Wednesday we got another call from the manager of a local guestfarm, bordering the farm in question, where lion tracks had also been found and lions were heard roaring in that area the previous night.


AfriCat North Team tracking lions
Our Favourite Places on Earth . . . AfriCat North in Namibia - Part 2
The next morning after breakfast we left for Hobatere Lodge to visit Tammy Hoth-Hanssen and the AfriCat North project. We drove through Otjiwarongo, Outjo and Kamanjab 350 kms. We planned to stay two nights. The drive into Hobatere Lodge (leaving the tarred road) was 16 km on gravel / rock / sand and hills. It was about as much as we wanted to tackle with our rental car. The scenery driving into Hobatere Nature Conservancy was stunning. Moping trees, parkland – treed grassy hills, many small mountains (maybe 350 metres high) and sandy rivers. The conservancy had had 70 mm of rain a few days before our arrival so it was green. Wildlife had moved away from the main water hole because it wasn’t the only source of water.


 warthog in a water hole namibia

Our Favourite Places on Earth . . .  Okonjima Lodge in Namibia - Part 1
Visit the Okonjima Blog for a brand new post by Paul and Shirley Martens - Old family friends to the Okonjima Family, Avid Photographers and Wildlife enthusiasts.
Okonjima and the AfriCat Foundation are run by the Hanssen Family siblings, Wayne, Tammy, Donna  and Rosalea and some extended family and friends. We’re staying atBush Camp right now and I am sitting in the day room part of our accommodation. The birds are singing. I can see springbok and a herd of oryx within a few hundred metres. Every once in a while two oryx are head to head (horns entangled) in what appears to be a dominance ritual, the dust flies and a chase ensues. 

The AfriCat Okonjima Predator Population Density Study Phase 2
Preliminary results PHASE 2: Poort - Super Highway 16 Sep - 4 Nov 2015. The second block within the entire study area (20 000 ha) was monitored from the 16th September 2015 - 4th November 2015 and measures 3 242 hectares (32.42 km2) in size (Fig. 1). The block is situated in the south-east, east of the reserve and includes the main road (5.19 km) used to enter and leave the reserve. The area consists of six water sources of which five are permanently installed and perennially accessible. The vegetation mainly consists of thorny bush - and scrub savannah in the northern part of the area and a mountainous area in the southern part with an altitudinal range from 1550 to 1860 meters above sea level.


Cheetah Dizzy Update 2015
RELEASE OUT OF ALCATRAZ After Dizzy gave birth to her second litter in July 2015 and after the loss of cub number one only two days after birth, we decided to relocate Dizzy and her remaining three cubs into Alcatraz - a soft release camp located within the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve. Even though cub mortality in cheetahs is not uncommon and it is arguable how much one should interfere with nature, we felt that it is our responsibility to give these cheetahs the best possible chances of survival. The Okonjima Nature Reserve is surrounded by a predator-proof electrical fence that is protecting Okonjima’s carnivores from all surrounding farmland. On the other hand, the fence creates an artificial island bound area that is restricting movement to only within the fence boundaries. Territories of cheetahs strongly overlap with those of leopards, wild dogs or hyenas due to a lack of enough open plains and often they can’t outrun their enemies.


 leopard captured on film
The AfriCat Okonjima Predator Population Density Study Phase 1
Preliminary results PHASE 1 Combretum - Okonjima Dam 27 Jul - 11 Sep 2015. The first block within the study area was monitored from the 24th July 2015 - 11th September 2015 and measured 3 816 hectares in size (Fig. 1). The block is situated in the south-west of the reserve and is characterized by a high number of accessible prey. The area consists of seven natural water points of which five are permanently installed and perennially accessible. The vegetation is mainly classified as thorny bush - and scrub savannah interspersed by a prominent mountain ridge in the north-western part of the area. 20 cameras were distributed throughout the area (Fig.2). Inter-trap distances ranged from 1.1 to 2.2 kilometers (1.59 ± 0.27) to increase the likelihood that no individual could move through the study area without being detected.