Recently the Tsalala Breakaway Pride made a waterbuck kill close to the Londolozi camps. These lions have been spending a lot more time south of the Sand River, moving further away from Ximpalapala Koppie where the cubs were first denned. As a result, they are pushing back into the core of the Tsalala Pride territory and we have been wondering for some time when these prides would cross paths, which is exactly what happened just a few days ago.
Tracker Freddy Ngobeni and I had seen the Tsalala Breakaway lionesses feeding on the waterbuck with their two young cubs the evening before. When we left them at dusk there was still a majority of the kill remaining and so we returned the following morning, wanting to check if they had been chased off their kill by hyenas. When we returned the next day though, we were shocked to find not a clan of hyenas but eleven lions where we had previously seen four. The two parts of the original Tsalala pride (who split with the arrival of the Matimba males at the end of 2015) had joined up and were feeding on the carcass together. Although there was quite a bit of snapping and snarling, the scene was fairly peaceful. The youngsters of the original pride were very well fed and were lazing at the edge of the carcass, while the females jostled to find a spot to feed on as the two youngest cubs muscled their way in. Although these prides have seen each other at a distance a few times, they have never actually re-joined and it was amazing to see two four month old cubs bravely stand their ground in order to get a share of the meat amongst lionesses they had never properly met before.
After the kill was finished, the Tsalala Pride got up and moved off by a few hundred meters before settling down in the shade to rest. Later in the morning they were disturbed by the remaining Matshipiri male who was seen walking in circles and contact calling all morning and the pride headed down into the Sand River, only to be seen again the following morning.
Recently we re-named the Mhangeni Breakaway Pride to the Ntsevu Pride, based on this pride of six lionesses splintering off and establishing themselves in a new territory. It seems that it may be too soon for us to be doing the same for this breakaway from the Tsalala Pride though. For many months rangers have argued back and forth about whether there is a chance the Tsalala Pride could ever re-unite. It seems that since the three young Tsalala males have moved off, the prides are a little less wary of each other. Is a re-joining ever-so-slightly more likely now? As always, only time will tell.
Photographs by Londolozi Guest, Jeffrey Westphal