Desert Lions: The Five Musketeers

Last year, you may have caught the National Geographic film ”Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib”, which documented the lives of a group of rare ‘desert lions’ in the Namib desert. ‘Desert lions’ are known as a highly unique species, who are totally adapted to life in the desert, with thick coats that protect them from extreme temperatures and the ability to survive on a very little amount of water. Desert lions are very rare indeed, with the population currently thought to stand at approximately 150 individuals. There are 5 desert lions of this 150, who were big stars of the 2015 documentary; 5 brothers known as the ‘Five Musketeers’. However, despite their ability to overcome and survive in one of the harshest environments on the Earth, the brothers have fallen victim to another major danger. Humans.

The first tragedy that struck this family coalition came in July of this year, when one of the famous brothers lost his life, after being shot dead by farmers during an altercation at a cattle post. Following this, three more of the brothers have been killed after being poisoned by humans. This poisoning has come just days before the group of brothers were due to be relocated from Tomakas, to the Uniab Delta, due to concerns over the increasing strain between their relationship with local humans. Unfortunately, it is thought that the reason for the killings was that the lions had taken some livestock over the past few weeks. Namibian police are now investigating the illegal killing of the animals and  The Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, has stated:

‘The ministry condemns this illegal activity of poisoning the lions and those involved will face the full wrath of the law,’

The Desert Lion Conservation project, which protects these animals, has been working tirelessly to improve relations between the lions and local people over the years. However, it was eventually the poisoned flesh of a donkey at a cattle post that killed three of the brothers. The Project has since claimed that after the lions had taken donkeys as prey, the local people retaliated by poisoning them. The alarm was first raised over three of the four remaining brothers, when their satellite collars showed they had stopped moving and the lions had not been seen for several days. Those who poisoned the brothers then burnt their bodies along with their satellite collars. Eventually, evidence of their fate was discovered, along with the location of the last surviving brother, who has since been relocated to the Uniab Delta without his brothers. Although his relocation was a success, the Desert Lion Conservation Project has stated that it is highly likely that he will return back to Tomakas in search of his missing brothers. So far however, his tracking data is showing that he has stayed put.

So far, no arrests have been made in connection to the crime. Although those who have spent the last five years studying the brothers are devastated by the loss of the family, they are using it as a catalyst to develop a crucial plan to protect the desert lions and reduce their conflict with humans.

Find out more about The Desert Lion Project

Follow me on twitter for nature news and wildlife photography @DaisyEleanorug


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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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