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.
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.
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?
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.