Tsalala Lion Cubs Killed

by on October 5, 2011

in Wildlife

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).

The Tailless Female standing proud, tall and always watchful - Jess Boon

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”

The fight that took place between the 2 portions of the Tsalala Pride - Jess Boon

The aftermath of the reunion. Very evident in this photo is the torn and bleeding ear - Jess Boon

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!

The two Tsalala Sisters lead the 6 remaining cubs across the Causeway to safety - Adam Bannister

Of the two remaining youngest Tsalala cubs one is a male and one a female - Adam Bannister

Written by Adam Bannister
Photographed by Adam Bannister and Jess Boon


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  • Penny Parker

    Sun sad news for Londoz and the Tsalala lionesses. But they need to recollect themselves in order to remain strong, and this striking reunion between the Tsalala sisters is evident of good things to come, lets hope.

  • Nikki

    I love the Tsalalas. Very sad to hear about the loss of two cubs. I really hope the reunion works out as we all know about strength in numbers.

  • http://equilibregaia.com/ Victor Ros

    Thanks Adam & Jess!

    What a wonderful story, the bittersweet life of Lions on Londolozi! Great shots too!
    I very much like the way you describe the re-gathering of the two prides, and their interactions.
    All the very best from Spain!

  • Geri Potter

    So very sad….
    Thanks for the news of the reunion however! Life in the bush is always bittersweet.

  • Heather Fleeger

    This news about the cubs breaks my heart.
    Adam- I am glad that we got to spend quality time with them all while we were out there and had the opportunity. Thank you! The plight of lion continues. We are watching and waiting to see how this all unfolds!

  • Nancy Armitage

    I was wondering when the tailless lionness would again appear at Londolozi….and with her (and I believe some of her daughters’) female cubs she escaped with while fleeing the arrival of the Mangeline Pride from Kruger. That would have been about 3 and a half years ago. We were in Londolozi then and she had just left to protect the cubs by leaving the area.

  • Nancy Armitage

    Correction to when tailless left was 1 and half years ago or so. Also these female daughters were sired by the Mapogo Pride in summer 2008.

  • Karen Melfi

    One wonders how lionesses can protect all of their young in such a volatile and often brutal environment, and it was with great sadness that we learned of the loss of two of the youngest of the eight cubs. It was heartwarming, however, to learn of the reuniting of the adult lionesses. The affection adult lions show for each other is so tender and wondrous. And, Jess Boon’s photos are phenomenal.

  • Merle

    The tears are streaming down my cheeks. My friends and I were the FIRST humans (thanks to Talley & Freddie) to see the 4-month old Tsalala cubs (and they us). We named the boldest one of the four who came closest to our vehicle Shayne. Of course, I don’t know if the cub was in fact a male or female, and I don’t know if he/she perished or survived. I hope I can continue to watch the remaining two survive and grow…and see them again at Londolozi in person in the not too distant future.

  • Wendy Louw

    Adam, thanks once again for the incredible game drive we had with you the other day. Being that close to the loiness’ and the cubs crossing the causeway was amazing. And then to be that close to the male lions as well! What a phenomenal experience! So glad to hear the the tailess lioness came back…wonder what will happen with the 4 males now. Very interesting soap opera amongst the lions at Londolozi :)

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