Earlier this month, tragedy struck a famous pride of lion brothers known as the 'five musketeers', leaving just one lone survivor to fend for himself in the Namibian wilderness. Concerns about the lion's safety were high – but new updates from Namibia's Desert Lion Trust indicate the big cat is alive and well.

The organisation reports that the lion was spotted at the Okongwe waterhole in the Skeleton Coast National Park earlier this week, where he met up with two lionesses and was even observed mating with one.

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Tullamore, the lone survivor of Namibia's famous pride of desert lions - the five musketeers - meets up with a lioness at the Okongwe waterhole. Image: Desert Lion Trust

"Tullamore" (or Xpl-93, if you prefer his more formal title) is well-known to conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts as a member of a coalition of desert lions called "the five musketeers". The big cats were the stars of a documentary and the subjects of a long-term study carried out by Dr Philip "Flip" Stander, founder of the Desert Lion Trust.

It's estimated that only 150 desert-adapted lions still live in Namibia, and conflict with humans is the biggest threat to their survival. Earlier this month, farmers poisoned three of the musketeers in retaliation for livestock killings, and in July, another brother was shot dead after a confrontation at a cattle post. 

Tullamore, the lone survivor, was darted and transported to safety in the Uniab Delta, while officials launched an investigation into the killings.

Although conservationists like Dr Stander condemn the poisoning, they also accept that human-wildlife conflict is a complicated issue. "On the fringes of the desert there is just enough grassland for rural farmers to keep some livestock. It is far from easy for these farmers to live side by side with lions," explains the Desert Lion Trust.

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The last survivor was quickly relocated to safety in the aftermath of the killings. Image: Desert Lion Trust/Facebook

After Tullamore's translocation, the biggest concern for officials was that the lion might want to go back in search of his brothers, and their hunch proved correct. Tullamore spent eight days roaming the lower Uniab River before he began to move northwards in the direction of his old home range. He covered almost 200 kilometres in 20 days before finally meeting up with the lionesses at Okongwe, not far from where his brothers were poisoned.

Still, the team at the Desert Lion Trust is hopeful that the translocation has had a positive impact. "The human-lion conflict problems that dominated activities during most of 2016 [in this area] and along the Gomatum River have for the moment been solved,” they wrote in an update.

Although the lone musketeer is now roaming the same area where the tragic conflict unfolded just a few weeks earlier, the team remains hopeful about his future. "The translocation may still prove to have been valuable as it broke the pattern of activities at that time and Xpl-93 may come to terms with the loss of his brothers and attach himself to the Okongwe lionesses to become the Okongwe Pride male," says the team.

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Tullamore was recently spotted mating with one of the Okongwe females. Image: Desert Lion Trust
Desert lion lone musketeer with female 2016-08-30
Conservationists are hoping that Tullamore will attach himself to the Okongwe lionesses to become the leader of the Okongwe pride. Image: Desert Lion Trust