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 her final weeks, the lioness would struggle gamely along with the pride. What will happen to the three young adult lioness that are left? Will they be able to handle the burden of raising 7 cubs without an experienced lioness to lead the pride?

In her final weeks, the lioness would struggle gamely along with the pride. What will happen to the three young adult lioness that are left? Will they be able to handle the burden of raising 7 cubs without an experienced lioness to lead the pride?

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.

A supreme huntress, the lioness led the Sparta pride on this afternoon. She stalked straight through the middle of the clearing, using every scrap of cover. The waterbuck in the distance occasionally thought it saw something, but as soon as it raised its head, the lioness would freeze, sometimes with two paws off the ground, sometimes for 10 mins at a time. After a 50 minute stalk, the pride took down a waterbuck calf.

A supreme huntress, the lioness led the Sparta pride on this afternoon. She stalked straight through the middle of the clearing, using every scrap of cover. The waterbuck in the distance occasionally thought it saw something, but as soon as it raised its head, the lioness would freeze, sometimes with two paws off the ground, sometimes for 10 mins at a time. After a 50 minute stalk, the pride took down a waterbuck calf.

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.

Over the last 13 years this lioness has provided wonderful viewing for Londolozi rangers, trackers and guests alike.

Over the last 13 years this lioness has provided wonderful viewing for Londolozi rangers, trackers and guests alike. Here, Alfie Mathebula, Bennet Mathonsi and their guests enjoy a sighting in the Maxabene Riverbed, only a few weeks before the lioness’ death.

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

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Tom Imrie

Field Guide

Tom is the voice of wisdom, reason and logic on the Londolozi Ranging Team, as well as all the other facets that go hand-in-hand with being an intellectual far beyond the realm of most mere mortals. There are very few subjects under the ...

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33 Comments

on The Iron Lady

Adam Bannister
Guest

Exceptionally well written Tom. A sad loss to the entire Sabi Sands. She will be remembered by all…

Linda
Guest

nicely write up, Tom. A loss to the pride for sure.

Ginny Race
Guest

Thank you Tom and James for the wonderful write up and photo’s of her, very sad indeed

Mike Sutherland
Guest

Well written Tom!! A great loss!! Eager to see the future of the Sparta pride!

Scott E. Smith
Guest

I was at Tree Camp in January. After reading your post, I went and checked my photos and a iPhone video and I am pretty sure I captured this beauty multiple times. The circle of life keeps on moving.

Kate Imire
Guest

Her endurance over the years has been incredible. You have told her story beautifully, thank you!

Trevor & Colleen
Guest

Good words for the Icon Tom.

James
Guest

A beautiful piece, Tom.

I think the pride is in for a tough Winter…

James T

Jenifer Westphal
Guest

Thank you Tom and James, very moving story and beautiful photos as always. I’m very touched, sometimes I feel closer to these animals than some in my own family! 🙂 In case you can’t tell, I love the blogs…J

Louise Taback
Guest

Thank You guys..sad story…RIP Iron Lady!!!!!

thelma aleman
Guest

Very touching and sad, bye jewel of the forest.

MJ
Guest

We can only hope she has passed her knowledge on to her daughters and granddaughters. She will be sorely missed.. what a lion the Sparta Male must have been! who was their mother? They sure produced some leaders didn’t they? Long live the line of the Sparta!
RIP and thank you for all the memories.

Evette Hartig
Guest

Brought tears to my eyes as I recall time spent with this magnificent lioness, she will be missed. Thank you for letting us know.

Zander
Guest

A dignified obituary, well done Tom

Ian MacLarty
Guest

Well done Tom, it is not easy to do justice to any icon but your words and James’ photos are pretty special. Having made her acquaintance many times I will miss her but, I suspect, not as much as the Londo’s host of rangers and trackers. We look forward to seeing how the cubs have got on maybe next summer.

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

Very well written & photographed thank you both for the farewell to a beautiful lioness!

James Kydd
Guest

Thanks so much for this Tommo, a great tribute as always.

Jacqui Hemphill
Guest

Beautifully written Tom, she lead an incredible life and will always be remembered…. Great photos JT!

RUBY
Guest

thanks for blog

Kathryn Flanagan
Guest

Beautiful words Tom, even though your heart must be sore.
This Iron Lady too will never be forgotten.

Judy Guffey
Guest

Mahalo.

Clarice
Guest

Well done, so well written, full of emotion!!!! Even though we did not meet her when we went to Londolozi I could feel so emotional about it.. Beautiful words about an icon as some people said.

Louise
Guest

A terrible loss but at least she is at rest. We luckily enough got to see the Iron Lady for the very last time on our trip to Londolozi thanks to our stay.

shirley Bruynder
Guest

Very sad news. R.I.P. my lionness. I will not forget you.

Eskay
Guest

Thanks, any chance of an autopsyto find out about the cause of death and the lump?

Comments are closed.

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