“There are only two ways to approach life; as a victim or a gallant fighter” – Merle Shain

I quote Merle Shain as this is the epitome of life in the African bush among predators and as I addressed in last week’s TWIP, there have been a lot of changes in the predator dynamics at Londolozi. We are unsure as to whether the last of the Mashaba female’s cubs is still alive (outlook is bleak), the Nhlanguleni female shows signs of lactation and suckle marks; where is she keeping her cubs and how many does she have? Will these cubs make it to adulthood? Who will take over the deceased Piva male’s territory for good? Will it be the Inyathini Male or the Flat Rock male, or will there be an appearance from a new male leopard looking at establishing an altogether new territory for himself?

The most significant development that came about this week was the re-joining of one of the Tsalala cubs with the pride as well as the interesting, possible rekindled bond between two lioness sisters.

A few weeks ago the Tsalala pride was in a squabble with other lions (presumed Majingilane) and the younger adult lioness and one young female cub have not been seen since. Their fate becomes inevitable.

For some time the older tailed Tsalala lioness has been roaming Londolozi and its northern parts with 4 youngsters (2 older females, 1 older male and 1 younger male). While in a sighting of the Nanga female leopard in the north eastern parts of Marthly, the scene suddenly changed as the older Tsalala female appeared from a thicket, trailed by two cubs (two older females). The Nanga female sensed their presence before we even knew they were there and she took off in the opposite direction. All three lions looked well fed, blood on their faces indicative of them having recently made a kill. But there were only three in total. Where were the other two cubs?
Lions calling in the northern areas suggested they may have been interrupted by another pride getting wind of the kill they had been feeding on and rushed in to investigate, only once again to have a fight break out, steal the remains of their kill and possibly killed or at best, chased two of the cubs away while the others fled with the adult lioness.

The Nanga female scans the surrounding landscape from the vantage point of a termite mound. It was moments later that she dashed away, out of danger from the approaching Tsalala pride of adult female and two cubs.

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Nanga 4:3 Female
2009 - present

The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.

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Nanga 4:3 Female

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Saseka Female
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Days went by with no sign, until one afternoon drive, trackers and rangers spotted a single male lion cub hobbling around a rocky outcrop in the Manyelethi River, a place he was familiar with, the place he was born. His condition was bad. He had clearly been in a fight with other lions. My theory mentioned above became more relevant and the possibility of the others being killed seemed quite likely. A further few days passed and there was no further sign of the male cub. Would he find the rest of the pride? His survival chances if he remained by himself were scant.

During this time we witnessed interesting behaviour of the adult Tsalala female; she was always seen in the presence of her Tailless sister from the Tsalala breakaway pride, yet getting too close to one another resulted in snarls. The younger adult female of the breakaway pride seemed most unhappy with the new presence of her mother. The Tsalala breakaway pride too had their share of difficulties with the recent loss of one of their 8 month old cubs – again possibly due to other lions.

The old Tsalala female lying in close proximity to her daughter, sister (tailless female) and cub. These adult lions were once one pride before splitting into the Tsalala and Tsalala breakaway prides. Will they rejoin?

Over the next few drives it became a regular occurrence seeing the Tsalala Breakaways in the company of the older Tsalala female meters away. Was she attempting to rekindle the bond? Was she showing interest in joining forces and regrouping once again? This was all new for me as my time at Londolozi began with the already current separation of the two sisters – the Tsalala and Tsalala breakaway prides. So many questions have been going through the minds of many rangers and trackers. The separation of the two sisters occurred when the Matimba male lion coalition broke them apart. The recent cubs of the Tsalala pride were fathered by the Matimba coalition and now the young 8 month old cub of the Tsalala breakaway pride was suspected to be fathered by the Majingilane coalition, but on this last point we don’t know for sure.
If these two prides were to re-join, what dynamics will pan out with the Majingilane males? Will they kill the Tsalala cubs or will the pride split once more? Every question begs five more.

One of the Majingilane male lions rests atop Ximpalapala crest scanning his eyes over the dried grass into the distance. If the Tsalala and Tsalala breakaway pride rejoin will the three coalition members kill the Tsalala cubs that are not their own offspring?

An early morning drive on a cool rainy morning recently saw us cross the Sand River and explore the north of Londolozi in search of any sign of lions. The soil was damp and provided the perfect canvas for tracking animals that had moved through the night.

Tracker Bennet Mathonsi and I saw tracks of an adult female on Ximpalapala crest but no cub tracks. A few meters later there were signs of cub movements and a few hundred meters later there lay not two but three Tsalala lion cubs. The young male had re-joined and his condition had improved. Their bellies were full and blood on their faces proved they had fed during the night. Reports from other rangers who had found the Tsalala breakaway pride with older Tsalala female meters away mentioned how they too had blood on their faces that morning. Had these two prides fed on the same kill in the night? Were they rekindling their bond and would they re-join to form a single pride? Only anxious times lie ahead and we eagerly await what happens next and what each game drive holds.

The younger Tsalala breakaway female snarls at her aunt (tailless female) as they climb a tree to steal the remains of an impala kill hoisted the previous day by the Mashaba female leopard.

Earlier days of a new journey for the two new cubs birthed by the Tailless female into the Tsalala breakaway pride. When they were four months old they still held the glossy blue haze to their eyes yet they were already feeding on meat.

The cubs grew quickly, never leaving one another’s side. Unfortunately only one of them survives. Will the single remaining cub make it to adulthood?

Old, worn canines and a weathered look, the last remaining adult female of the Tsalala pride walks to the Sand River. Is she searching for the younger adult female and single cub that have been missing for some time or is she in search of her sister from the Tsalala breakaway pride to rekindle the bond and hope to reform a single pride?

The Tsalala pride of two adults and five cubs. The older female and three cubs remain. Will they join up with the Tsalala breakaway pride? Watch this space.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

Involved Leopards

Nanga 4:3 Female

Nanga 4:3 Female

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About the Author

Alex Jordan

Field Guide

Born in Cape Town, Alex grew up on a family wine estate in Stellenbosch. Spending much of his young life outdoors, Alex went on many a holiday into Southern Africa’s national parks and wild areas. After finishing high school, he completed a number ...

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12 Comments

on Lion Pride Reforms

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Marinda Drake

Alex the blog read like a suspense novel. I have been following the Tsalala pride and the troubles that surround them for years. I still have photos of the two tailless females together.

Callum Evans

The lion dynamics at Londolozi are so dramatic they could do a reboot of Big Cat Diary about them and the leopards! It would very interesting to see if the two prides reunite. If the Tsalala has few members at the moment, it would make sense to rejoin with the Breakaways as their chances of survival would improve and they could take down larger prey more frequently.
Also, if lions are likely responsible for the death of the Tailess Female’s cub, who is the most likely culprit?

Dawn Phillips

Incredible how these dynamics change almost daily. I can’t wait to hear more….

Ian Hall

Waiting with interest

Denise Vouri

Wow! So much activity and speculation among the cat families. I can hardly wait to hear the next installment.

Dipti Dahal

Thank you for the update. I thought the Tsalala pride split had been the result of the Matimba male coalition moving into Londolozi in 2015 the post mentions the Majingalane being responsible for the split. Maybe I missed something? Thanks!

Thomas Weder

So interesting story to read every day. Thanks to all the authors!

Michael & Terri Klauber

Wow, We are always amazed at the drama in the lion and leopard dynamics! Thanks for the update!!!

A B

This is one of the most touching blogs I’ve read. I hope the pride gets back together again..the look in the lions in the last picture,aye, it’s something else…

Abbaas Ibn-Zubair

Thanks for the update but I noticed a couple of inconsistencies as it relates to previous blog posts:

1. The Tsalala sister’s (old Tailess and old Tailed lionesses) split was caused by the arrival of the Matimbas, not by the Majingilane.

2. Regarding the Tsalala pride’s five cubs fathered by the Matimbas; firstly two were born to the older tailed female (both females I believe), a few months after this, three cubs were born to the younger female of the Tsalala pride, also fathered by Matimbas. This means that there are two older cubs and three younger cubs, not the other way round as the article seems to imply.

Nonetheless, many thanks for the update it was an interesting read!

James Tyrrell

Abbaas Thanks for the comments.

100% correct, a few inconsistencies there. Corrected forthwith. Thanks for pointing that out.

Jennifer Paperny

I love this blog Alex!!! I can’t wait for the next! Thanks for making the Paperny trip so successful!

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