In a place where the contest between life and death is so keen, it seems ironic that the passing of a Londolozi lioness should draw much attention in the greater scheme of living and dying. For all of the reasons that make the wildlife of Londolozi so special it is with great sadness that we report the passing of the oldest Sparta lioness.
Over the past month, the Sparta Pride have slowed their erratic movements around Londolozi in order to allow this aged and struggling lioness to keep up with the pride. With an unnaturally swollen stomach and a gaunt, ribbed physique she battled the disease that plagued her. A few nights ago she gave up on her attempts to remain with her pride and she was reported dead by the East yesterday morning. Speculation a few months ago was that she was heavily pregnant. Sadly the hopes of new life within her were to ultimately be misguided and potentially the cause of death.
In many respects she was “the Iron Lady’ of Londolozi. She was fathered by the infamous Sparta Males and having been born towards the end of 2000 she was the sister and littermate of the now disbanded Mapogo coalition. Poignantly she outlived all of her sisters and all but two of her 6 brothers. She guided her daughters through their first attempts at raising youngsters and in a place so wild and savage to the aspirations of lion, the fact that she can boast to have left a legacy is telling and alone makes her remarkable.
She endured the rangers and trackers of Londolozi and our sometimes muddled attempts to find her. For 13 years she suffered the attentions of thousands of cameras, pointed fingers and somewhat blasphemous exclamations of delight. She allowed us to follow her in the hunt, take a first look at her cubs and chatter away endlessly whilst she slept on those sunlit summer afternoons.
The irony of two “Iron Ladies” passing within a week is not lost on many of us here. Both are now finally at rest and whilst the world debates the appropriateness of “Ding, dong the witch is dead” we’ll forgive some of the local inhabitants of the grasslands of Sparta for not mourning her passing. For the rest of us though we’ll cherish the memory of a truly great lioness.
Written by Tom Imrie
Photographed by James Tyrrell