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.

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The scene that we arrived at just a few mornings ago. The original Tsalala pride is the grouping of lions on the left side of the photograph and the Tsalala Breakaway Pride are lying at the back behind the carcass. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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Two lionesses fight over the remains of the waterbuck carcass as the Tailless lioness tried to feed from the far side with her two cubs. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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Two of the feisty young cubs attempt to feed amongst the three adult lionesses. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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Although there was a lot of snapping and snarling, none of the aggression turned into a full-blown fight. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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Two of the lionesses glance westwards towards the calls of a male lion, who turned out to be the Matshipiri male. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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.

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Two of the Tsalala pride youngsters move off to rest once they had their fill of waterbuck. At about fourteen months of age these young lions are starting to develop manes. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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The older tailed lioness listens to the calls coming from the Matshipiri male. Despite this male contact calling all morning, the group of lionesses never once responded. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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The Matshipiri male walks through a clearing just to the east of the lionesses, struggling to locate the pride. He was thin and walking with a slight limp and we assume that he had seen the vultures and picked up on the scent of these lionesses and was hoping to find them on a kill that he could feed off. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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The Matshipiri male heads down to the Sand River for a drink before heading west from there. It was later in the morning that he emerged from the river and stumbled upon the Tsalala Pride. Not wanting any conflict, the pride sought safety by heading into the Sand River. Photograph by Jeffrey Westphal

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

Filed under Lions 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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8 Comments

on The Tsalala Pride: A Reunion

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Ian Hall

Good blog, watching the lion dynamics with great interest.

Alison Smith

Interesting Amy! hope the relationships stay cordial!

Denise Vouri

Great story and photos if they lions enjoying their meal. Love the little ones joining in to get their share.

Yael Weiss

Thanks for sharing Amy. We got to see the Matshipiri male with Andrea but only heard from him about the ladies feast. Great photos and story!

Liam Donnelly

Very interesting, thanks you! Missing the wonders of Londolozi already.

Susan Strauss

Omg, would so love to see them join back up together! How amazing….

Jazz Doc

Fabulous, Amy!! Terrific run down and images.

Mike Ryan

Thanks Amy great update

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