Trying to understand lion dynamics in the central Sabi Sands at the moment is a bit like trying to understand quantum physics. Beyond the understanding of most people, and even for those in the know, most of it is still theory.

The last month or so has seen quite a few shifts and movements in the prides and coalitions on and around Londolozi. Even though we’ve long since given up trying to predict what will happen next, the sightings have been pretty incredible.

A lioness from the Mhangeni Breakaway pride stretches before heading off for the evening. Photographby Grant Rodewijk

The Mhangeni break away pride have ben spending most of their time with the Matshipiri males. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk

Following on from James Tyrrell’s blog a few days ago, the one shift that has surprised us all and raised many questions is the move of the Matimba males back north. We are not sure of the reason for their departure or if their return is ever going to happen. We do however know that they have left 5 young cubs with the two Tsalala lionesses without their fathers to protect them; what is to be the fate of these youngsters?

One of the Matshipiri males patrols his territory, scent marking and calling along the way. Photograph by Alistair Smith

Two of the Mhangeni Breakaway females have been seen mating with the coalition over the last week or so. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk

One of the lionesses and males take a rest together during their tiring mating ritual. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk

With the absence of the Matimbas, the Mhangeni breakaway lionesses have been spending time with the Matshipiri males, one or two of the females even mating with the coalition from the East. This unfortunately would mean that the two lionesses that had cubs sired by the Matimbas must have not made it. This would explain the two coming into oestrus quickly and wanting to mate with the dominant males who are now occupying the territory that the pride is frequenting. The Matshipiri males seem to be focussing their time more on the younger Mhangeni breakaway lionesses as opposed to the Sparta pride further south.

The young lioness from the Tsalala Breakaway pride on the hunt. This young female is becoming a serious force to be reckoned with, learning from the Tailless female has given her an massive advantage. Photograph by Sean Creswell

Two of the young males from the Tsalala Breakaway pride take a breather on the road. These young males are growing up quickly, What there fate will be only time can tell us. Photograph: Sean Creswell

An interesting occurrence over the last couple of days is the speculation that the Tailless lioness from the Tsalala Breakaway pride has given birth to cubs. It has not been confirmed by anyone as of yet. What we do know is that she was looking heavily pregnant about a week ago when the pride was moving through our property. They made their way North of the Sand River and settled around a rocky outcrop where the Tailless female was seen resting on top of some boulders away from the other four lions of the pride. No one has seen her for about three days, so we cannot confirm if she is lactating and has given birth, but the signs are rather convincing. We certainly cannot assume anything; we shall just have to wait and see what the outcome is. A question that would arise if our speculation is correct though, is who are the fathers? She was seen mating with the Matimba males on our property a few months ago, but the pride has covered some serious distance over the last months, no doubt coming into contact with other coalitions. If she has given birth, how long will she tolerate the three young Tsalala breakaway males, who are now approaching that time in which they will be forced away from the pride and have to fend for themselves.

The Tsalala Breakway pride watches a herd of wildebeest in a clearing. The Tailless female is still leading this group of youngsters, no doubt imparting her knowledge and experience onto them. Photograph: Sean Creswell

The Mhangeni pride and the Majingilane coalition haven’t been spending to much time on our property of late. It seems they are enjoying the safety of the area west of Londolozi away from the Matshipiri coalition.

The beauty of trying to follow the lion dynamics is that there is always the element of the unknown, we can speculate and hypothethise all we want, but there are certainly some questions that we may never be able to answer.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

Kevin Power

Field Guide

Kevin hails from the small town of George, but we try not to hold that against him... After obtaining a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance at the University of Stellenbosch, Kev realised that town life wasn't for him for the moment, and ...

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29 Comments

on Lion Update: What Will Happen Next?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Liam
Guest

Thanks Kevin, nice blog! It’s great to have seen the Mhengani and Tsalala Breakaways when they were tiny cubs and now doing so well. Remarkable considering all the changes have happened. Looking forward seeing you all next month to find them for real!

Kevin Power

Thanks Liam. Look forward to having you back next month.

Mike Ryan
Guest

Thanks keep these dynamics coming, what’s the speculation would tailless go back to the Tsalala after giving birth or remain with the young female after kicking out the boys. That might be dangerous on two counts, as she may put her cubs in danger with Matimba sired cubs and would they accept her. I recall the old tailless was eventually killed by her daughters in the Mangheni breakaway I believe

GM/3 tooth Majingilane
Guest

so even Majingilanes are avoiding londolozi because of Mhtashipiri males if Tailess is pregnant it is definitely matimba offspring

Mike Ryan
Guest

Here is a nice link to a blog in September 2016 http://blog.londolozi.com/2016/09/the-unfinished-tale-of-the-tailless-female/

Bumblebee
Guest

I’m sure both matimba dark and light mane are doing well but its hard to believe only 1 is left from the coalition of 4 up north? How did this happen? I would be greatful for any news of this?
And the 2 matimbas going back towards the bormingham boys i fond that pretty wreckless for two lions who are clearly thinkers and normally weigh up the risk long before its on their back.

Kevin Power

Hi Bumblebee. Im not sure of any news of the other part of the coalition, sorry I can’t help you there. We are also very surprised by their decision to head back north, as you said, there is the chance they will run into the Birmingham’s. At this stage we can only speculate as why they left.

Svante Adde
Guest

Any chance to show how the Sabi river and the other normally dry river beds are looking after the rains on the daily emails?

James Tyrrell

Hi Svante,
We will put out a clip on our FB page today- have a look in an hour or two.

Ann Seagle
Guest

Enjoyed the post. What a puzzle?

Phil Schultz
Guest

Are you able to keep track of lions that have left Londolozi for another concession? And do other concessions refer to prides by the same names we frequently see used in your blog?

Kevin Power

Hi Phil. We try as much as we can to keep track of the lions that leave our concession, it isn’t always that easy, as some areas refer to the same lions as different names. As an industry though, through social media, we are starting to narrow down the amount of names for an individual,coalition or pride.

Lea
Guest

Great article Kevin. Really, the lion dynamics is a fascinating thing. Life is tough for lions and sad also. Will be interesting to see how this all plays out. As they say, survival of the fittest. Thanks again for this interesting blog.

Judy B.
Guest

Great blog, Kevin. The lion dynamics are so engaging. Can’t wait to see what happens, especially when we return in August.

Kevin Power

Thanks Judy. Looking forward to having you and Larry back. Im sure by then we should have lots more to write about 🙂

John McCabe
Guest

Great stuff Kevin! Really enjoy your updates. You must have Irish connections with a name Power? Waterford perhaps.

Kevin Power

Hi John. Thanks very much. My heritage is most certainly Irish – second generation South African.

Gillian Lacey
Guest

We had such wonderful sightings of the Matimbas with the Tsalala lionesses with, at that time 2 beautiful cubs, about a year ago now (where does time go!) I really hope these cubs and their younger siblings make it without the protection of their Fathers. I fear those lionesses are going to have to use all their skills in the coming months to help those cubs survive. How old would the cubs have to be to survive new males coming into the area?

Kevin Power
Guest

Hi Mike. There is a chance she may return to the other two lionesses and their cubs, with the young lioness. All of the would have potentially been sired by the Matimbas, therefore there would be no worries on that account. On would they accept her, its very difficult to say, but we did notice interaction between the two prides a few months ago, and there was no aggression between her and the other two lionesses from the Tsalala pride. Its very difficult to say, as we are constantly being surprised by these animals. Hope you and the family are well.

Mike ryan
Guest

See here for those interested in current status of the Matimbas http://tintswalo.com/safari/uncategorized/ghosts-of-our-past/

Mike ryan
Guest

Update on Charleston males who we saw last October at Londo. The tooth still has not fallen out https://www.facebook.com/latestsightingskruger/posts/1430266787043646

Mike ryan
Guest

Here are some notes I have regarding different names anyone like to add to them or correct me
Styx is eyrfield pride on mala mala
Spata is flockfield on mala mala
Marthly is tsalala and breakaway is the same mhangeni
Matimba are Clarendon males
Piva treehouse male
Bicycle crossing short tailed male
Tomboti young female now called island

James Tyrrell

Hi Mike,

Thanks for this! Two corrections though; the Sparta pride are the Eyrefield Pride on MM, and as far as I know Styx Pride are known by the same name there.
Jame

Mike ryan
Guest

Tracking lions on the tube in London all well thanks Kevin

Chris
Guest

Hi Kevin, is it possible that the 2 matimbas will join the other matimbas and form a coalition of 4 like they were and go against the 5 young Birminghams or even now the the 3 majingilanes

James Tyrrell

Hi Chris,
Unlikely. Apparently only a single northern coalition os still alive, so it seems the biggest force the Matimbas could boast is a group of three.
As for the Birminghams I believe one was killed last year so there are only four left.
It’s very hard to predict these things so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Being an old coalition I doubt if they would try anything unnecessary…

Georgel
Guest

No, it’s not! One of the Northern Matimba is dead, so they can for a coalition of at most 3.

Chris
Guest

There 2 northern matimbas and there are 2 southern matimbas. Can they join together to form a coalition of 4 to go against the Birminghams, or now the 3 majingilanes

Chris
Guest

Anyone?

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