*This section is currently being revamped with additional pages containing general information and images which will hopefully be of interest to anyone planning to visit.*
The Nebrownii area consists of white calcrete dust, which becomes light grey mud as the water overflows from the dam and seeps into the earth. Elephant and rhino which frequent this area enjoy rolling about in this cool gunge and there are many game sighting reports of ‘old’ white elephants recorded in the rest camp books. The culverts on the main road just north of Nebrownii are favoured as dens by lions and hyenas.
During a few brief visits during my first time in Etosha there were no elephants or predators, just large numbers of plains game and Ostrich here. Kori Bustard, one of which is pictured above strolling past the parking area, are common throughout the park. The male of the species is the world's heaviest bird capable of flight and although they are reluctant to take to the air unless threatened, we did see a couple fly.
On our second visit to Namibia, while staying at Okaukuejo, I'd originally planned to check out the Adamax, Wolfnes and Okendeka area on the west side of the main pan but a park guide I spoke to advised sticking to Nebrownii and Gemsbokvlatke where lions had been sighted the day before. As predicted, the big male lion and his partner were still close to the Nebrownii waterhole but had crossed to the north side of the main road. They were lying down, taking turns to scan the horizon while the other shut its eyes. After a few minutes it became apparent that a third lion, a second male (above), was sleeping nearby. Initially only the top of his back was visible. This pair of males run the local pride and have a fearsome reputation. Eventually the lion and lioness stood up and ....
The lioness rolled over onto her back and lay with her legs up in the air for a while, obviously mega-impressed with her partner's performance!
After a brief rest break at Okaukuejo we drove back to Nebrownii to find that the lion pair were at the same spot but there was no sign of the other male. We sat at the waterhole watching Oryx, Springbok, Zebra and Ostrich come and go. Then, the two lions were on the move, heading east parallel with the main road.
The lioness disappeared from view and the male dropped down to stare into a drainage culvert. He then climbed back up the embankment to roar at the occupants of any cars that stopped. As soon as the lions appeared, every Springbok and Oryx near the waterhole turned and stared, ready to race off if the predators headed in their direction.
The Black-backed Jackals are never far away if there`s even a remote chance of a meal.
I learnt that the local lion pride use the culverts to shelter from the heat of the sun and will often stash newly born cubs inside. Even if the big cats aren`t around, hyenas are likely to move in - not the best spot to change a wheel if you`re unlucky enough to get a puncture here!
Big cats are amongst the iconic species that symbolise Africa and its diverse wildlife. They also play an essential role in maintaining ecosystems. The populations of all these cats are declining rapidly due to uncontrolled human population expansion and the resulting encroachment on their habitat which reduces their natural prey. Poaching, disease, unsustainable hunting, and persecution by farmers and herders are just some of the many challenges they face.
Figures on how many lions there are in Africa today vary wildly, but what's clear is that numbers have decreased by around two-thirds in the last 50 years. According to the Africat Foundation there are just 600 to 800 wild lions left in Namibia, distributed between the Kunene Region, Etosha, and the north-eastern regions of Khaudum, the Nyae-Nyae Conservancy and the rivers bordering Botswana.
This is a wide-angle view of the Nebrownii waterhole from the parking area. It looks a very barren and desolate place but like all of the park`s waterholes, plays a vital role in enabling the animals to survive throughout the dry season. If and when the rains come, grass and other plants will quickly sprout to transform the landscape.
Above: A lioness returns to her `den` under the road. The other shot, of a young Springbok, was taken in early October 2018 when the location wasn`t quite as parched as on my previous September visits. Some rain had already fallen on the east side of the park although the wet season doesn`t usually begin in earnest until November / December.
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Each permit lists the National Park rules which are also displayed on large billboards at the entrance gates. Visitors who infringe these conditions risk a hefty fine, expulsion from the park or both. One day on our latest holiday, my wife and I returned to the Nebrownii waterhole mid-afternoon and found that the parking area wasn’t too busy so I got a good spot, cut the engine, and settled down for a long wait.
The calm didn’t last long though and soon, numerous cars, 4-wheel drives, and large purpose-built safari trucks had gathered, the occupants all focused on a group of lionesses that had exited from the culvert below the main road. One of the cats was on her own, well back from the others as they approached the waterhole, scattering Springbok and Zebra in the process.
Unbelievably, this man and woman got out of their 4x4, lifted the tailgate and started rearranging the contents of their boot! The vehicles were so tightly packed that the pair would have been unable to see the last lioness which unknown to them wasn’t too far off. The couple appeared oblivious to the shouts from the people in the other vehicles, some of whom were private guides, and I’d be surprised if someone didn't report the blatant breach of National Park rules to the authorities. I’ll bet more than a few tourists had recorded their idiotic behaviour on camera.
During my time spent in Etosha, I`ve seen several animals fitted with radio tracking devices, namely elephant, zebra and this male lion on my latest trip. Back in February, two young male lions escaped from the National Park, killing three oxen and a dog in a nearby village although no humans were harmed. Following an intervention by officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, one of the lions was killed after it reportedly showed signs of aggression and resisted all attempts to capture it. Human-wildlife conflict is a pressing and complex issue in Namibia as it is in many other parts of Africa, with growing human populations inevitably encroaching on animals’ habitats. The whereabouts and fate of the other animal is unknown.
This is not the first time that lions have escaped from Namibia’s most iconic park. In 2015, four lions escaped and terrorised the Mangetti community in the Oshikoto Region, killing 32 cattle, a donkey and a horse. Two of these lions were killed, while one was recaptured; the last escaped lion eventually made its own way back into the park. Back in 2010, three lions were spotted at various villages in the Oshikoto and Oshana regions. The Namibian government pays compensation to farmers who lose livestock to wildlife, while a number of conservation bodies are looking at a variety of ways to curb human-wildlife conflict.
It’s not only lions that have ventured beyond Etosha’s park boundaries. Elephants traditionally migrated to the Atlantic coast each year and occasionally herds still try to break through fences along the western perimeter, causing extensive damage. In September 2014, an escaped black rhino went on the rampage in a small town close to the border of Etosha called Omuthiya, charging pupils and teachers at the local primary school! Luckily, only a couple of minor injuries were recorded, and the rhino was successfully captured and returned to the park.
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