On August 16, the desert lion “XPL 68″, nicknamed the “Terrace male”, crossed the Kunene river to return home to Namibia. This was a significant and remarkable event for several reasons.
Who better to describe the journey and it’s uniqueness than renowned lion researcher Dr Flip Stander, who stayed close on the heels of the Terrace male throughout his journey. Here is a post, which appeared on
on August 17, written by Dr Stander himself:
During the 1980s the tracks of a male lion was observed on several occasions at the mouth of the Kunene River by Rangers of the Skeleton Coast Park and Skeleton Coast Fly-In Safaris (re: Andre Schoeman). The tracks suggested that this lion was spending a lot of time in Angola, but he disappeared after 1990. There have not been any subsequent records of lion movements in Iona National Park as well as the south-western corner of Angola.
On 01 Aug 2013 the “Terrace Male” (Xpl-68) swam across the Kunene River and ventured into Angola. This was a significant event and marked the return of lions to the area after an absence of 23 years. In addition, it is also remarkable that a “Desert lion”, with no experience of perennial rivers or any body of water larger that the pools found at small springs in the desert, swam across 76 metres of fast-flowing & crocodile-infested water.
Xpl-68 stayed in Angola for 15 days and travelled 328.5 km (average 23.5 km/day). He explored the western section of Iona National Park and travelled as far north as Baia Dos Tigress.
At 01h00 on 16 Aug 2013 he crossed the Kunene River and returned to Namibia.
Since Xpl-68 is obviously not aware of the political boundary (Namibia/Angola), his remarkable journey actually started on 20 Jul 2013 when he left the Hoaruseb River to explore “uncharted” territory (see map below). During this period of 29 days he walked 780.4 km at an average of 26.9 km/day (max = 66.3 km).