When leopards get displaced by stronger individuals, we start seeing them popping up in areas we wouldn’t expect them. Old males that get ousted by younger challengers and young males that get pushed out by their fathers start to show a complete lack of pattern in their movements. Even females that are looking to set up territory far from their mother’s surprise us with their wanderings. The same can be said for male lions too, as young males and older coalitions whose tenure has come to an end start to be recorded as outliers on the map, as a life of non-territoriality starts to become the norm for them.

When dealing with lion prides themselves, it is not often that the females and their cubs get entirely displaced, yet it seems as if that is what has virtually happened to the Sparta pride.

The pride that once formed the mainstay of lion viewing on Londolozi has become but a shadow of their former selves; semi-nomads who appear at random on all points of the map, reduced to two adult females and their three cubs.

The older female and one of the cubs keep watch on a nearby group of wildebeest and impala on a grey afternoon.

The last couple of years have been rocky for them to say the least. The Mantimahle coalition killed one of the male cubs of the pride recently, while one of the adult females was killed during a clash with the Ntsevu pride, just beyond Londolozi’s southern boundary.

To really get into the causes of their turbulent recent history, we have to go back in time to when the Majingilane left Londolozi and moved west. The Sparta pride were left alone, without a dominant coalition, and it wasn’t long before new males began moving in, with a succession of Styx, Fourways and then Matshipiri males all laying successive claims.

The older female from the pride, instantly recognizable by her paler fur colour.

When the dust of the Majingilane’s departure finally settled, the Matimba males were in control in Londolozi’s northern reaches, where the Tsalala pride live, and the Sparta pride remained in the south, under the control of the new Matshipiri males, with whom they soon birthed cubs. Whereas the Majingilane had been dominant over both the Tsalala and Sparta prides simultaneously, allowing for a bit more freedom of movement of the two prides, the new situation of rival coalitions ruling over the respective groups of females created a buffer zone of sorts through central Londolozi, within which we didn’t often encounter lions, each pride choosing to remain in the safe area under their own coalition’s protections, unwilling to put their cubs at risk. This unused zone was where the Ntsevu pride began moving once they began looking to establish a territory for themselves, and after mating with both Matimba and Matshipiri coalitions, it seemed they had now firmly squeezed themselves into a significant portion of the Sparta pride’s old territory.

I know that’s difficult to follow, but the below map should help clear it up:

To sum up as concisely as humanly possible, the Ntsevu pride essentially moved into the no-man’s land between both prides during 2016, and being a bigger pride, forced the Sparta lionesses further south, killing one of them in the process.

Now we see the Ntsevu females roaming over the area in which the Sparta females spent the majority of their time. The Sparta pride, whilst popping up here and there on Londolozi, have for the most part been spending their time to the south and east of us, being seen on neighbouring reserves and even wandering into the Kruger National Park on occasion.

The Tsalala pride have fallen on hard times in their past, often being made up of only two females. Yet somehow they have managed to persist.
Can the Sparta pride do the same through this, probably the most vulnerable period they have faced in the last 20 years?

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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14 Comments

on Sparta Pride On the Brink

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Mike Ryan
Guest

Thanks James for the updates. I am a real fan of your maps. Looking back on my notes we have not seen the Spata since 2012. Where do the Mhangeni fit in now. The Ntsevu pride are the Mhangeni breakaway who were originally a Tsalala breakaway?

Mishal
Guest

Is the other adult lioness daughter of this lead lioness and her sister or of thier deceased cousin

James Tyrrell

Mishal she’s the daughter of the deceased lioness as far as I know. I’ll double check for you.

Jill Larone
Guest

It’s sad seeing this happen to the Sparta pride – once such a large, dominant pride, now split up and being forced out. I hope they will be able to persist through these difficult times and come out strong once again.

Beau and Kathlyn Bethune
Guest

I still have a photograph on my wall of the Sparta pride circa 2013, whilst they were at least nine, if not ten or eleven, strong. They had at least four small cubs. I have a photo of two of the sub-adults sitting on a tree limb in profile together in a line like someone posed them. The entire pride walked right past the Rover within about 3 feet, stopped, took a sniff, gave a look, and continued on their way. Later that day, we saw a female cheetah, her two cubs, and a pissed off male intent on hurting the cubs, followed by a huge male leopard going head first, arse up with his back legs off the ground, and pulling a huge warthog out of its hole. It was an interesting day to say the least. In the end, it all ebbs and flows, but hate to see this happen to such a dominant and historic pride. Elmon and Dean were the best. And to make things better, Talley jumped in for the ride for a few days. We miss your place terribly, but the writers of the Blog (kudos to James and Amy at the helm these days) do a wonderful job making sure that we feel like we are still there. If any of your crew ever get to New Orleans, please know that you have friends here. Beau and Kat, New Orleans, Louisiana.

James Tyrrell

Thanks for the kind words Beau and Kat!!!

Lea
Guest

The lion dynamics are truly interesting. Sad that the cubs and adults lose their lives to the takeovers. We can only hope that the Sparta pride will survive all the turmoil and increase their numbers. Thanks for the interesting blog James.

Chris
Guest

Where are the matimbas are they with the tsala pride?

Amy Attenborough

No Chris, the Matimba males haven’t been seen on Londolozi in many months. They were last seen heading north around the Orpen section of Kruger. Thanks, Amy

MJ Bradley
Guest

Last I heard the Matimbas Hairy Belly & Ginger are in the Mluwati.

Judy Hayden (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Guest

I pray that the Sparta pride be save and continue to produce babies and grow. Nature is not always nice.
Thank you explaining the dynamics between these prides so well. You are educating me.

Abbaas
Guest

The Mhangeni pride doesn’t live on Londolozi anymore, they were forced to flee west from the Majingilane when they arrived in 2010.

Amy Attenborough

Hi. Thanks for your message. This was true back in 2010 when they were named the Tsalala Breakaways. Since then though they reached sexual maturity, established their territory within the Majingilane’s, mated with those males and have since sired over twenty cubs with them. They are no longer fleeing from the Majingilane. Many thanks, Amy

Rich Laburn

James the resilience of this pride will endure as they have proven time and time again over the past twenty years. My prediction is that once a dominant coalition of males begin controlling their territory, the pride will rapidly flourish again.

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