At least one of the Mhangeni Breakaway lionesses are reported to be denning cubs to the north east of Londolozi. Over the past few months, we have seen the pride mating with the two Matimba males (believed to be the fathers of the cubs), so it would be natural to assume that the females are familiar with the males.

Imagine our surprise then, when four of the lionesses spotted the ginger-maned Matimba male approaching them one evening recently, and immediately took off. To flee in the bush is to invite pursuit, and the big male immediately broke into a trot, steadily gaining on one of the lionesses who had an injured paw.


A fifth lioness was also trailing the pride, and as all of the females scattered in different directions, the male was forced to up his pace. The injured lioness was clearly in pain and decided to hide behind a small Grewia bush, but was soon found by the male. Despite his seemingly aggressive approach, he simply stopped about two metres from the female and looked at her with a rather bemused look on his face. Meanwhile, a second female was moving past about 20 metres away, so the male decided to run after her instead. Impalas and wildebeest were alarming in the clearings around us, giving away the positions of at least two more lionesses that we couldn’t see. Driving down the hill, we spotted the fifth lioness in the distance being pursued by the dark-maned Matimba male, so raced towards them to view what interaction there may be.


Check your settings! Forgetting I had been operating with a much narrower aperture for a few previous shots, I snapped this pic of two of the lionesses starting to run from the male that can just be seen in the background, and got a slightly fuzzy photo with a lioness with a completely fuzzy face due to the slow shutter speed.

She ran from him, and after a minute he had lost sight of her, reverting instead to a much slower attempt to follow her scent trail. Given that the pride females had run all over the clearings by this time, he was as confused as we were within a very short space of time.


A haunted look accompanies one of the Mhangeni Breakaway lionesses. There was certainly a look of fear on their faces as the first four lionesses approached us, suggesting they were already moving away from the males when we found them.


The dark-maned Matimba male gets on the scent of one of the lionesses.

As I assume you are by now while reading this.

The females had scattered in all directions to escape the Matimba males. That’s about all we could gather. Although the males did not seem intent on actually harming any of the lionesses, they were still in persistent pursuit.

Why had the females run in the first place though? Did they not recognise the males? Had there been some recent altercation? One of the lioness was quite cut up on her face, which left us wondering how she had sustained the injuries. Was it in a fight over a kill? Had the males done this to her?


The female with the injured nose and swollen snout can be seen on the right.

Far more questions were posed than answered. Andrea Sithole tracked the pride for over six kilometres the next morning, eventually finding them in the central parts of the property. During his track he had found where they had killed a wildebeest calf, then been chased off by the Matshipiri males. It was a rough night for the pride as far as their relationships with the local coalitions went.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts as to why the pride may have felt the need to run from the Matimba males. We’re still scratching our heads.

Filed under Lions 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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on Matimba Males Chase Mhangeni Breakaways

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Nicolas Eske

The Mhangeni have been chased by Matshapiri a few times. So they were in this state of mind. They either failed to recognize the Matimba Males. Or sometime before this,, they before they might have been approached by Matshapiri males and they were still alert. The Matimbas must have scared away Matshapiri and then trailed the females. And when the females saw the Matimba males, they thought they might be Matshapiri.

James Tyrrell

Could be. There can be a lot of confusion amongst lions; we saw a few years ago how an apparent case of mistaken identity ended up in one of the Tsalala cubs getting killed by one of the Majingilane:

It’s pretty hard to tell what’s going on their minds…


They must have been chased by a another coalition before this.

James Tyrrell

It’s always possible since the Matshipiri males were vocalising from not too far away, and their tracks had crossed onto Londolozi the night before…

GM Majingilane

First of all its always a delight to see awesome Matimba males thanks for this piece.Could it be because the females fear the males now that they mated with the Mhatshipri as well that the males could get aggressive with them because the males wont tolerate the females mating with other males so the males hit one of them now the females are avoiding them just family problems all should be back to normal .What do you think James

James Tyrrell

It’s certainly possible. There was a lioness mating with the Matshipiri males yesterday which we were pretty sure was one of the Mhangeni Breakaways…


A good account James. It is a tough life for all animals in the bush – especially if you are prey. The lion dynamics are like reading a thriller novel. Thanks for the article and I pray the cubbies will be safe, along with the ladies of the pride.

GM Majingilane

have things calmed down now

James Tyrrell

They have.
The pride is currently a long way from the Matimba males, right in the central parts of Londolozi.

Patrik Hutter

Hi James,
Thank you for this new blog and hello to Londolozi!
It has been fascinating to follow the Mangheni-breakaways since they left their natal pride. Maybe there is a difference between research/text book and reality in the field. Females officially get mature at age 3 years, and between first oestrus and when the may have cubs, 6-12 months can pass. In Sabi Sands, I have seen that rarely (almost never). Othawa-females got cubs at around 4.5 years old, the Mangheni-females themselves also at around 4.5 years old. The Tsalala-female fathered by Majingilanes (born early 2011) even at more than 5 years old. It seems that 1-2 females of the Nkuhuma-females in the north were below 4 years when giving birth. I was really surprised that 2 females of the Mangheni-breakaways are already denning at roughly 3.5 years old. But it’s great anyway!
There was a video from your neighbours in the east (about 2 weeks ago), when 1 female of the Mangheni-female was caught in between chasing between Matimbas and Matshapiris, seems she played it smart, but some females have been mating with the Matshapiris too. I’m not sure whether they have established their territory 100%, it seems it overlaps with Sparta-pride and Tsalalas. As far as I understood they spend most of their time in central/eastern Taylor and to the east of that on the other side of the Sand river. It will be interesting to see where exactly theiy define their territory once they are fully mature and confident. For sure they will be a real force, being 3 strong. Hopefully, no female will be victim of any coalition fighting for them. The close presence of Matimbas and Matshapiris, and maybe even the Birminghams, should make them cautious, and their recent behavior described above maybe a sign for that.

Patrik Hutter

Sorry I meant that they are 6 strong (not 3) 🙂

James Tyrrell

Hi Patrick, thanks for the comments.
At present there is no real certainty about Mhangeni Breakaways territory; they’ve been spending a lot of time in Mala Mala, but prior to that they were on our side for quite awhile. Since at least one of the lionesses recently gave birth (in MM) it may be that they will look to remain there, but with the Sparta Pride staying further south and the adult Mhangeni females staying further west, central Londolozi currently has no resident pride, so they may well establish a large territory.

Jill Larone

Very interesting James! Were you able to find the cubs that are being denned, and if so, are they all safe? Do you think the Matimba males don’t recognize their own cubs and have threatened them and the females are trying to draw them away from the den site? Maybe the female was injured trying to protect the cubs? They clearly look very stressed and afraid in your pictures. These poor Lionesses are really having a rough time…I feel so bad for them. Will the two injured Lionesses survive their injuries, do you think?

James Tyrrell

Hi Jill.
Their injuries didn’t seem to severe, and there is a lot of food around at the moment, so if nothing further occurs, it is likely they will make a full recovery.
As far as I’m aware, the cubs are being denned on a koppie in Mala Mala, but are still very small, and are not being viewed on a regular basis yet.

Gerard Gaynor

Maybe with so much interaction with different prides, things adding up to leave the lionesses’ nervous

James Tyrrell

Very possible Gerard. The eastern sections of our reserve towards thE Sand River have seen a lot of lion activity of late.




An intriguing and bewildering story. I can’t offer any plausible reason for the Matimba males’ behaviour except to say that domestic violence appears to be everywhere including the animal kingdom. A really interesting story. Thank you James.


Thanks james. Mhangeni are a nomadic nature pride with 6 members. Difficult for two old Males to hold it on. With Matshapiri currently make incursion who are definitely now streetwise and much faster, agile males. Can easily hunt down the two Matimba Males. The things would soon go out of old males hands.

Tim Musumba

What is interesting here is wouldn’t the Mhangeni breakaway recognize their own Male Lions?!Why would they run away and supposedly mistake them for other Male Lion’s including the Matshapiris who are so different in image from the Matimbas especially Hairy Belly?!It could be because one Breakwaway Lioness was found mating with the Matshapiris which in turn has made the Matimbas more cautious against another repeat of Matshapiris mating with their lionesses!

James Tyrrell

It may well be, Tim.
There could be a clash imminent between the Matimba and Matshipiri males.

Dave Strege

Is this the same time as when you hosted golfer Rory McIlroy, who tweeted video of the lion roaring? Looks like the same habitat, surroundings; and it looks like you in the video. Can you tell us anything more about that encounter? And everybody’s reactions?

James Tyrrell

Hi Dave, yes it was the same sighting.
A very exciting thing to witness, with lions running everywhere! We couldn’t make complete sense of it, but it was pretty thrilling!


Since the Mangheni 6 are mating with 2 different coalitions and two of them already have cubs, could we see a split between them?

James Tyrrell

Hi Bader,
I’m always hesitant to make predictions about what will happen in the lion dynamics because there are so many variables at play, and it could literally go in any direction!

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