From being what was once a strong and stable coalition just a short while ago, the Matshipiri male lions are now in serious trouble.

In mid- to late April, in an unknown incident, one of the Matshipiri males broke his leg and since then his condition has been deteriorating. Moving with his brother and spending time with the Ntsevu pride had been his saving grace though because it had meant that he has had meat provided for him. That was until about a week ago.

The first encounter happened in southern Dudley on the 20th May on the banks of the Sand River, where two young, unknown males chased the Matshipiri males north through their territory. We saw only a single Matshipiri male that morning heading north and roaring constantly, with the calls of the two other males further south and east of him. It seemed in this encounter the older males managed to get away unscathed.

We became aware of the second encounter when we heard the bellowing roars of these coalitions all the way from camp on the morning of the 23rd. Shaun D’Araujo and Elmon Mhlongo traced these calls to central Londolozi and found two young males lions that none of us had ever seen before.

Gregory Pingo and his guests were with these males later on in the morning as they walked through Londolozi, calling brazenly. On this exploratory mission they came across the uninjured Matshipiri male who had been resting in some long grass. As soon as he lifted his head and was spotted, the new coalition took off after him. These young males are only estimated to be about four years old and are in fact much younger and smaller than the Matshipiri males, but being alone and outnumbered, the Matshipiri male apparently decided that it was not worth a fight and so he ran for a few kilometres with the newcomers trailing close behind him. They eventually lost sight of the Matshipiri male, who headed down into the Sand River to the east of our camps, and the new males lay down to rest just south of the camps for the remainder of the day.

The male with the broken back leg was seen lying close to our eastern boundary, about mid-way along. He was incredibly lucky that it wasn’t him who had been spotted by these newcomers as he would have been unable to escape in his weakened state.

The following morning, the tracks showed that the healthier Matshipiri male had done a massive loop to the east of Londolozi during the night, gone south by a number of kilometres where he was met again by the newcomers. Trackers, Freddy Ngobeni and Sersant Sibuyi did an amazing job of piecing together what happened during the night based on the tracks left behind.

The tracks showed where the new males had been walking when they spotted the Matshipiri male. They took off after him attempting to chase him down. There was a point where the new males managed to grab him but he ran a few more paces, dragging them along with him. The scene where the actual fight occurred showed a lot of disturbance to the ground, patches of blood as well as clumps of hair that had been ripped out of his mane. The tracks showed where the older male managed to get away and run off. From there the newcomers continued walking, leaving small smudges of blood on the ground from the base of their paws as they walked. The newcomers were found a little while later, still roaring and walking. They were both limping slightly, with blood on their feet but were otherwise in good condition. Later on that morning, they met up with a Ntsevu lioness who was seen mating with them sporadically.

One of the Ntsevu lionesses is submissive towards the two new males. The youth of this new coalition is evidenced by their significantly smaller manes than the Matshipiri males whom they have been chasing. Photograph by James Tyrrell.

The Matshipiri male was also found much further north of this but he was far worse off. He was bleeding profusely from the face and had been bitten badly on his back.

Route of uninjured Matshipiri male over last few days. Light blue: First witnessed chase of Matshipiri by new coalition. Red: Site of altercation described in video. Fur from mane and bloodstains. Green: Position on morning after serious altercation of Green dot. Dark Blue: Matshipiri position as of two days ago

This male was seen again on the afternoon of the 27th in the Sand River to the east of our camps. Despite being a bit bruised and battered, he doesn’t seem to have sustained any life threatening injuries.

His brother with the broken leg was also seen on that same afternoon. He is incredibly thin at the moment and was seen chasing a male cheetah. It is quite possible that he was hoping the cheetah had a kill that he could rob but unfortunately for him this was not the case. We did see him manage to run a few paces on his broken leg but once the cheetah had moved off, he collapsed in some shade to rest. Although these animals have an amazing amount of resilience and tend to bounce back from some seemingly dire situations, his condition doesn’t bode well.

In an attempt to chase a cheetah, the injured Matshipiri male can be seen limping heavily as he puts pressure on his clearly broken leg. His gaunt frame and protruding ribs are clearly evident here. Photograph by Amy Attenborough.

Bite wounds can clearly be seen on his rump and flanks here, evidence of a run-in with the new males. Photograph by Amy Attenborough

In a slight turn of events the two Matshipiris were seen again this morning, this time together. Last night the Tsalala Pride killed a wildebeest and when the kill was discovered by some hyenas, they began to call in other members of the clan to help chase the pride off the kill. The noise and commotion they caused drew the attention of the two Matshipiri males who were able to chase the pride off the kill and feast on it themselves. We did not see the male with the broken leg move at all so we can’t be sure how his leg is working. His brother is looking healthy though, apart from a few deep scratches and bite marks to his face and back.

Evidence of the encounter this ‘healthier’ Matshipiri male had with the new coalition. Photograph by Nick Kleer

The worst of the injuries seem to be a puncture wound below his eye and one on his back but despite appearances he should make a full recovery. Photograph by Nick Kleer

The last few months have been relatively peaceful on Londolozi with regards to lion dynamics with the absence of the Matimba males and only sporadic visits from the Majingilane coalition. Now though, roars can be heard late into the morning and the competition between these coalitions is heating up for sure. Currently we are trying to ascertain who this new coalition is, although photographic comparisons and updates from neighbouring lodges seem to suggest that they are the Avoca young males, a newly dispersed pair that have moved down from the Timbavati/Ngala area.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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19 Comments

on Matshipiri Males in Trouble

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Vaseem Baig
Guest

Wow! this is incredible news and tables would have been turned had one if the Matshapri male was not injured. this is the same coalition that had confronted Matimbas and Majingilanes well in protecting their territory and prides.

It is indeed sad that they are in this state and it is highly likely that injured males spotted and dispatched by the young ones…hope this venerable male recovers soon in the presence of this partner.

Aly
Guest

Any news on these Sparta pride are they doing okay are these males spending any time with them and is Tsalala pride and their cubs safe distance from all these males ?Are the young Tsalala males also still in your area

Amy Attenborough

Hi Aly. Yes for the moment all the prides are safe and well. They are definitely stressed with all the commotion going on and are being careful to stay away from the areas where the roaring and fighting is occurring. The Sparta pride was seen in the south of Londolozi a couple days ago and the Tsalala pride were seen heading north away from Londolozi, looking over their shoulders at roaring coming from around the camps. The tsalala young males are also still in the area. Thanks for your interest. Cheers, Amy

Tommy lee
Guest

Hi if your close by vetinary care would help the weakened matshpiri male with broken leg ? Too many lions are shot and killed less than 50k left and falling at the hands of humans so we should help every single lion that we can as human beings . A slow painful death is cruel and even in the wild i know nature is cruel i gave seen many animals suffer through the effects of nature but its time to make a stand and help any animal especially this beutiful lion in need of a faster recovery.
At least rid of the younger 2 males and relocate them ? Give these guys time to heal . And if the weaker one doesnt get food feed him? Whatever it takes ..hipscar died a slow death too as much as i dont like the majings hipscar deserved to be helped and saved not left to die a slow death it is in our bature to save the weakened ..dont drive by after taking cam shots leaving them to suffer they are falling fast and each one means everything.

James Tyrrell

Thanks for your comments Tommy, but as cruel as it can seem, we have a non-intervention policy and let nature take its course.
Regards

Susan Strauss
Guest

Great piece, Amy. I love Sersant’s video. Wow, the two new males look so young! Even younger than the Tsalala breakaway males, right? Have the Matimba males hung around or are they off again?

Amy Attenborough

Hi Susan!! Y these two new males are incredibly young to be behaving the way that they are. From what we know it seems that they are about four years old so just a little older than the Tsalala Breakaways. And the Matimba’s haven’t been around at all so all this commotion, roaring and fighting is also causing consternation for the prides with cubs fathered by other males. Hope you’re well! Much love

Bryan Aylmer
Guest

Hi Amy
Great blog and very interesting turn of events. Who is the Ntsevu pride, I have not really heard of them before and I follow your blogs regularly?

Amy Attenborough

Hi Bryan. They are the pride previously known as the Mhangeni Breakaways. They have been renamed since the pride’s confirmed independence. Here is the blog with the details http://blog.londolozi.com/2017/04/29/mhangeni-breakaway-pride-renamed/. Thanks so much, Amy

Susan Farrington
Guest

Ohe gosh, it is heart wrenching to see these magnificent lions when they are down and out!! I hope they both manage to pull through but know the lion with the broken leg is in a precarious situation and this also puts the other at a disadvantage not having an strong ally to avoid encounters such as he has just had. I’m wondering how you bear it all to see this on a daily basis?! Don’t you get emotionally attached? I know is is the way of the wild in Africa, and it is so amazing to experience (I’d come back in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity), but I cringe inside when I read these type of updates. (keep them coming tho!) Life is tough out there in the bush!

Murtaza S
Guest

Great article Amy! The map, photos, videos, and article help to piece together everything. It’s amazing how things have gone south for the Matshapiris males in two unexpected events.

Brandon
Guest

Hi Londolozi

I might have a video of these two new young Avco males! If the same there were seen at my wife’s lodge on the southern part of the Klasarie and Timbervati as the Avoca females are seen in the area as well!! Have you got any photos of these two new males?

Mike ryan
Guest

Thanks Amy what news of the Mantimanhle coalition

Jeff Lipman
Guest

Brilliantly relayed, look forward to the updates over the next few weeks

Mike D
Guest

It’s sad to see just how quickly the tide can turn for even powerful coalitions. I hope these powerful males heal and live to lead a new pride if they are overtaken. A broken leg can be a death sentence but hopefully his partner heals from those brutal looking scars and helps his partner heal. Evidence of that was already apparent in taking over a kill and keeping the hyenas at bay. Looking forward to the follow up.

Chris
Guest

This a prefect opportunity for the matimbas to come back and reclaim the territory.

Diane
Guest

Hello Amy!
My friend Marisa and I were privileged to see the Matshipirir lions and 6 younger lions – perhaps all females ?
David Strachan and Judaslocated them on May 1 and we saw the one with the broken leg . He seemed so resilient ! I am anxious to hear more of their stories . I’m hopeful for success but it appears the new “unknown ” lions are baring down in the territory . Thank you for your excellent photos and tracking ! I love reading all the blogs from Londolozi – my second home in my hear!

Fiona Combrink
Guest

I noticed that you state that the mother of the Quarantine male leopard is unknown. I watch safari live from Djuma which is north of you and they know that the mother is named Karula “Queen of Djuma” James Hendry of Wild Earth would verify this. He is frequently seen up there.

James Tyrrell

Hi Fiona,
Thanks for the comments. Yes, the Quarantine male is the son of the Karula female and brother of the Kunyuma male, who has also been seen on Londolozi.
Best regards

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