It was with great sadness upon my return to Londolozi from a short break that I found out some bad news…
The Tsalala sisters have a pride of ever-growing youngsters and hungry mouths to feed. A couple of weeks ago I started exploring their hunting techniques around the river bed, touching on how they would need to start hunting larger prey to satisfy the increasing demand of the cubs. Last week they paid the ultimate price… the event took place north of our northern boundary so was not seen by any of our rangers.
Apparently the females were hunting a herd of buffalo when things got chaotic. In what I can only imagine must have been horrific scenes the buffalo herd turned on the lions and trampled 2 of the youngest cubs to death. It is a great loss to the Tsalala Pride and one’s heart goes out to the mother who in her fourth attempt at motherhood still struggles to get all her youngsters to maturity. Just a couple of days ago we posted a piece that shows the extent to which a mother lioness went to protect her cub.
The dent in the pride is a harsh reminder of the constant battle that exists out here in the wild between lion and buffalo. They truly are eternal enemies. On a number of occasions we have shown examples of hunts, both successful and unsuccessful. When you go back and view the footage it is very obvious how dangerous such encounters are for the lions to try bring these buffalo down to their knees. We are often left feeling a little sad for the buffalo but quite proud of the lions for their achievment! I suppose for the natural balance of nature to truly exist every so often the opposite force needs to exist and this was shown to us in full colour.
So the Tsalala Pride now numbers 8 members who are going to need to grit their teeth, pick up the pieces and continue.
On a more positive note there was also a fascinating interaction that has happened since the loss of the cubs.
Ranger Jess Boon was there to tell the tale
“We had just moved into the area around Mahlahle Dam, not too far south of our northern boundary. Earlier that morning we had seen fresh tracks of the Tsalala sisters plus the remaining 6 cubs heading into that area. We moved through the block spurred on by the smell of rotting flesh. We located the remains of a male waterbuck that had very obviously just been killed.
Suddenly not too far away all hell broke loose and we heard lions fighting…we raced forward to see that the 2 Tsalala females were in the same position as another 2 lionesses; in the distance we could see more lionesses running away. Immediately we could see what was unfolding. The 2 portions of the Tsalala Pride had met up. Hearts were pounding as we watched the scene unfold.
The Tailless Female reunited with the 2 Tslalala females (it may have been a very long time since she has seen her daughters). They rubbed heads and showed lots of affection towards each other. It was then obvious that The Tailless Femalewas attempting to reintroduce the other lionesses to the sisters ( I must break in here to remind the reader that the lionesses that accompany Tailless are a combination of Tailless’ daughters and the daughters of the Tsalala sisters).
As soon as the Tsalala sisters saw the younger lioness they ran towards her growling and slashing away at her. She rolled onto her back and played the submissive card. Tailless sensing that her companion was in trouble actually intercepted the sisters and lay on top of the younger lioness protecting her. It was incredible to watch. There was an element of love yet this love was punctuated with uncertainty, nervousness and confusion”
So there you have it: the 2 portions of the Tsalala Pride have met and although it was not all fun and games it was an important process in what may just be the beginnings of a reunion. The Tsalala Sisters have been through hard times in the last couple of days but this may be the light at the end of the tunnel for this much loved pride!
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographed by Adam Bannister and Jess Boon