Two years ago, the roar of the Majingilane was a constant serenade on the night air of Londolozi. If you couldn’t hear them on at least five evenings a week, something was amiss. They were a constant presence, and the “Wow!” effect that guests got when viewing a dominant, full-maned male lion for the first time was something a ranger could almost guarantee during a three-day visit to Londolozi.

No more.

The Majingilane have been making life difficult for us during 2014. With their expansion into the west of the park and their acquisition of two new prides, they have been conspicuous by their absence, spending a lot of time with the Ximungwe and Ottawa prides, a bit of time with the Mhangeni pride, but largely leaving the Sparta and Tsalala prides to their own devices.

With over two-thirds of the Sabi Sand reserve to patrol, it is small wonder that we don’t see them that often anymore. They criss-cross our territory fairly regularly, but more often than not it is just their tracks we see, and their presence has long since vanished over our borders, moving through the darkest hours of the night. We may hear them roaring during late drinks around the fire, and by midnight they well be calling from the airstrip just behind camp, but by morning, as we set out full of hope to track them down, they have often moved right across and away from Londolozi.

original-territory

The initial territory controlled by the Majingilane after they overthrew the Mapogo.

72337580

Their current territory, showing their westward expansion.

Seeing a couple of them together has become a rarer privilege than it used to be, and seeing all four of the coalition assembled in one place in one mighty unit is something we may have the good fortune of viewing once a month if we are lucky. It does happen, and they are still the lords of the central and western Sabi Sand, but when will the hammer blow fall? The hammer-blow that will end their reign? The hammer-blow that will almost certainly be struck by a new coalition moving in to take over, like the Majingilane once did.

There are over 2000 lions in the Greater Kruger Park, and it is safe to assume that somewhere out there, in one of the prides, or even already roaming as a young coalition, is a group of males that will one day rise to ascendency in the Sabi Sands. Will the Majingilane be forced out entirely, or will they retreat westwards, like their predecessors the Mapogo did, and consolidate their territory out there?

Crossing

The Majingilane cross the Causeway in force.

Who will be the first to be killed, or will they simply give way before the onslaught of the new blood attempting to overthrow them? If one or more of them is to be killed, who will be the first to go? As cold-blooded as it sounds, the consensus amongst the ranging and tracking team here is that the Hip-Scar male will most likely be the first to go, as his injured ankle has seen him limping along for months, seldom looking in as good a condition as his coalition-mates.

The Dark-maned male, although presumed to be the dominant force in the coalition, was notably absent during the Majingilane’s fight with three intruders two years ago. Would he stand and fight, side by side with his brothers, or would he be among the first to back down?

There are a lot of questions here for which we have no sure answers. Every time we begin to view the Majingilane as a spent force, or at least a weakening one, they do something to show how wrong we are.

Do these look like spent lions to you?:

HipScar

The Hip-scar male, although with a weak and swollen ankle, is nevertheless still very much a presence in the coalition.

DarkMane

The Dark-maned male crosses the rocks in front of Varty camp.

Canine

The male with the missing canine follows the Dark-maned male towards where the Tsalala Pride were feeding on a buffalo.

IMG_3989

The full mane of the Scar-nosed male is a sure sign of a dominant male in good condition.

In the meantime, we watch and wait, and listen…

Through contact with the various other reserves in the park, we usually have a good idea just where the coalition are on any given day. If all four of them are accounted for and they are to the west of Londolozi, yet we hear the ominous roars of male lions in the night air, emanating from the direction of the Kruger Park, we – and the Majingilane – will know that trouble – and possibly their doom – is on the way…

Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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10 Comments

on How Much Longer Can the Majingilane Last?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

marinda drake
Guest

Interesting blog. Will it be the young Sparta males that take over from their fathers one day?

Radheesh Sellamuttu
Guest

Hi James, are the rangers familiar with the big males from just over the border with Kruger? And if they were to take over would you need to approach them in vehicles with more caution than approaching the Majingilane due to the Majing males being quite habituated? I noticed that in Londolozi/Sabi Sand we approached all the cats much closer than in my time in Zambia and Tanzania.

Pic of one of the Majing crossing the Sand river from my trip in early March 2014!

James T
Guest

Hi Radeesh,
I am unaware of what males may be lurking just over the Kruger border, and I don’t think the other rangers are too sure either. We would definitely have to approach a new coalition with more caution; the same was true with the Majingilane when they first arrived. They were far more aggressive towards vehicles and trackers/rangers on foot initially. The photo you have posted is I think from the same sighting as the males crossing the river that I included above. Who was your ranger then

James

Radheesh Sellamuttu
Guest

Thanks. Interesting to know. No this pic was a sighting of only one male crossing alone! I was with Mike Sutherland. This sighting http://blog.londolozi.com/2014/03/lions-and-rivers/

S.w. Tsang
Guest

Hope they will stay in power & well for as long as the good Lord allows .

Ian Hall
Guest

I spent a week at Londolozi in September and there wasn’t a whisper. They cannot control that much territory indefinitely , and with such a prime predator spot, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Patrik Hutter
Guest

Hi James,
I hope they stay in power for a very long time as I would like to see them again. By the way, what is HipScar’s hip-problem ? Is it caused by fighting with other lions (Selatis), or by buffalo ?

James T
Guest

Hi Patrick,

His hip is fine; there is just an old scar there with no fur that we use to identify him. His problem is his ankle. Not entirely sure what it was caused by, but most likely a poor foot placement during a hunt; getting it caught in a hole would have twisted and injured it badly!

James

Patrik Hutter
Guest

Thanks for your explanation James!

Stephanie Peduto
Guest

I really love this article. I especially appreciate the maps, it just goes to show how vast Londolozi really is. I was very fortunate in May 2013 to visit Londolozi and see all four Majingilane brothers. Hopefully they’ll be around next year when I come back!

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