Last week saw an incredible sighting playing out on the marula crests north of the Londolozi camps.
Garrett Fitzpatrick, ranger, Irishman and all-round good guy, was following up on lions roaring just over the hill. He and tracker Life Sibuyi found tracks at odds with the roaring, since they looked very fresh, yet the roaring was coming from a different direction to where the tracks were pointing.
As they were off the vehicle working out their plan, more bellowing sounded from the clearing to their west. An animal vocalising is obviously a far more concrete and current reference point than tracks, so the pair shot off in that direction. Life was the first to spot a male lion moving quickly, trotting in fact, through the bushwillow thickets adjacent to the crest, and when a second male appeared nearby, also moving fast, Life and Garrett simply assumed it was the resident Matimba males. When a third male emerged onto the clearing, they knew something was up. Recognising the scarred nose of one of the males now forming up in a group and looking back the way they had come, Life exclaimed, “The Majingilane are back!”
No sooner had he uttered these words than more roaring, definitely from two more males, burst forth from a few hundred metres back, further down the crest. This was the Matimba males, bellowing defiance at the intruding Majingilane.
What took place over the next hour can only be described as a game of vocal ping-pong between the two coalitions. The Majingilane would roar and chase the Matimba males east through the clearings. They would then tire and begin spreading out. The Matimba males, looking behind them, would spot a weakness as one Majingilane became separated from the others. They would then turn and chase him back towards his coalition mates. Once regrouped, the Majingilane would once more give chase to the Matimbas.
Back and forth this went for a long time, with each coalition hesitant to continue a chase to a point where actual physical contact was inevitable. There was a lot of chest beating but not a lot of follow-through. At one point the scar-nose Majingilane, salivating heavily and roaring, was barely thirty metres behind the fleeing Matimba males. They realised he was isolated though and turned to confront him, at which point he turned yet again and retreated.
Eventually both groups of males were too exhausted to pursue each other further, and they lay down a few hundred metres apart, panting heavily.
On multiple occasions we have found tracks of the Majingilane crossing back onto Londolozi then disappearing back into the west, but all the movement has invariably been in the darkest hours of the night, and no-one has born witness to what actually transpired. Now, however, we are left to wonder; how many times has this scene played out with nobody present? Majingilane chasing Matimba males who then chase the Majingilane… It’s like the old adage about a tree falling in the forest and no-one being around to hear it.
I suppose two ageing coalitions that are both at a stage in their lives in which they are looking to do little more than consolidate territory cannot afford to be taking unnecessary risks. Nothing was really at stake here. It was simply a case of firm territorial lines being drawn in the sand. Thankfully for both groups of males, the lines weren’t drawn in blood.
Photographed by Sean Cresswell, Londolozi Ranger
Filmed by John Varty, Londolozi Co-Owner