Over the last few months, we have witnessed a number of interactions between the Tsalala and Tsalala Breakaway prides. The prides would stay together for a couple of days or sometimes only a few hours before splitting again. A few weeks ago, the Tsalala Pride sisters re-joined and have been together ever since. It seems this time it might be for good.

As has been recorded in a recent blog, the older tailed Tsalala female has been seen associating more permanently with her sister’s pride – the Tsalala Breakaway pride – comprised of her daughter and sister (the Tailless female).

The tailed Tsalala lioness with her sister the Tailless female from the Tsalala Breakaway pride seen together after years apart. The Tailless female’s remaining cub follows behind. This cub faces an uncertain existence with the currently tumultuous lion dynamics on Londolozi at the moment. Photograph by James Suchon.

This comes after a recent split in the Tsalala Pride where the younger female and two cubs disappeared. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the remaining three cubs of the Tsalala pride, now nearing two years old, essentially being abandoned. They have not been accepted into the Tsalala Breakaway pride with whom the Tailed lioness now associates and thus their survival looks uncertain. In short, this lioness has essentially abandoned her own cubs in order to rejoin her sister; a genetic contradiction.

The three abandoned sub-adults have been seen subsisting on whatever they can. Recently, I saw them resting at a pan in northern Londolozi. There were four or five hyenas lying not too far off and we discussed the potential danger these predators, along with other lions, represent to this vulnerable trio. Suddenly one of the young lionesses jumped to her feet and darted over to a nearby bush and settled down to begin feeding on something. We initially thought she had a kill stashed away, as we heard bones cracking. Upon edging closer though, we saw she had a large tortoise in her grasp and she was crunching through the shell. This shows the resilience of these young lions that are most likely feeding on whatever will give them enough protein and energy to sustain them from day to day. This is likely to include animals like lizards, tortoises and scraps they might find from leftover kills made by the Tsalala Breakaway pride. One thing that is certainly aiding them is that the separation from their mother has coincided with the birthing of impala lambs, which presents an ample food source for them. For their sake, let’s hope they can capitalize on this timely opportunity.

The Tsalala Pride meanders up the Manyalethi river in Northern Londolozi. Nyala, bushbuck and impala abound in this area providing many hunting opportunities for these lions.

When it comes to lions, the presence of a strong coalition of males directly affects the success of the prides of females and their young in the area, and therefore the overall lion population of that area. It’s important to note here that coalitions of males associate with prides of females that fall within their territories, but are not necessarily a permanent part of the prides.

A strong coalition reigning over any given area and keeping other males out gives the prides of females therein enough time to raise the dominant males’ litters safely to adulthood/independence (2-3 years). Without this protection, roaming males seeking out new or expanding current territory move into areas and kill any offspring that they have not sired.

With the ageing Majingilane coalition’s grip slowly weakening on their territorial grounds of Londolozi, the future of the lion prides here remains uncertain.

Excitement stirred up recently amongst the rangers and trackers as one of the three Birmingham males was seen mating with the young female from the Tsalala Breakaway Pride in northern Londolozi. This coalition is territorial to our north, occasionally seen patrolling our boundary. A few days ago, this male was seen in central Londolozi, further south than he’s ever been before and in the core of Majingilane territory. Is this a sign that we may be seeing more of the Birmingham coalition in the future? Might they move in to dominate this void? The size of the coalition and their age and maturity could certainly suggest so.

A Birmingham male and the young lioness of the Tsalala Breakaway pride were seen mating together for a few days. It’s possible that we may see this coalition mating with more of the prides on Londolozi in years to come. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk.

This does, however, pose an issue for the remaining 9-month-old cub of the Tailless female as well as the three Tsalala pride youngsters all not fathered by this coalition. The long-term prospect of a young, strong coalition to stabilize the current lion dynamics would benefit these prides in the years to come though, even it is to the detriment and ultimately death of the current sub-adults.

The same Birmingham was then seen in central eastern Londolozi a few days after mating with the Tsalala Pride female. This is the first time we have seen any of these makes south of the river, seriously encroaching into Majingilane territory. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk.

In other lion news, the Ntsevu pride made a brief appearance in the last week, walking the length of Londolozi, south to north, in about two nights. As James Tyrrell observed recently, only four of the six lionesses were together and they were later joined by a single Majingilane coalition member. Prior to this, two Magingilane males were seen on territorial patrol in southern Londolozi, trying to keep a hold on the extremities of their territory.

We wait with baited breath to see how the saga of the Tsalala pride plays out. With the older Tsalala female joining forces with the Tsalala Breakaway pride, we hope that the three youngster will also be accepted at some stage.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

Rob Jeffery

Field Guide

Rob joined the Londolozi team at the start of 2017. Having grown up on a farm in the Cape and spending many holidays traveling Southern Africa he developed a love for the outdoors and an appreciation for the natural world. After completing a ...

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10 Comments

on Lion Update – Tsalala Sisters Reunite

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Marinda Drake

Interesting ĺion dynamics. Hope that the 3 cubs survive. Great news that the Tsalalas are together again.

Denise Vouri

You had me at Tsalala sisters and then the article just kept reading better and better. The realignment of the two prides is fascinating yet it is disturbing to know that the fate of the cubs hangs in the balance. They are old enough to fend for themselves if given the opportunity but as you mentioned the genetics could lead to their demise. Well written!!

Lucie Easley

These are certainly interesting dynamics in the struggle for survival among these various prides. Thanks for sorting it out.

A B

Interesting…I hope everything with The Tsalala pride turns out ok. Waiting for more updates hopefully soon.

Ian Hall

Awaiting developments with interest. The Tsalala Pride does not look to be a strong one and you wonder how long it can hold on. I recently saw a documentary about a dominant coalition of males in Sabi Sands, it was pretty strong stuff. Looked to have been filmed a few years ago.

Jazz Doc

Wonderful blog entry. Just fascinating. And, of course, terrific images. Thanks!

Callum Evans

This just keeps getting more and more interesting!! I’m baffled as to why the Tsalala lioness abandoned her cubs, maybe could’ve have been to help jolt them into independence. Either, the Tsalala lions need a strong coalition in order to survive, will be interesting to see if the Birmingham males enter the ring. The Avoca males just left as I recall.
Also, are there are any ‘stable’ lion prides on the reserve at the moment?

Oliver Sinclair

Loved this update. The Tsalala Pride write their own rule book when it comes to lion behaviour. I remember a similar story when I was watching the Tsalala Pride about 15 years ago. They were drinking at a pan in the North of Londolozi. Suddenly their heads pricked up and they went into stealth mode all crawling in different directions. They were stalking and we had prime seats to watch the action but we couldn’t see what they were stalking. After about 15 minutes of suspense they charged into a Guarri bush and came out with a tortoise…

Judy Hayden

I had just asked about the Tsalala Breakaway Pride and now I have an answer. The answer is a scary one regarding the abandoned young and the other sub adults in each pride. I am praying that all this sorts itself out with the least amount of loss as possible. Rob, this blog was very informative and of course the pictures are always beautiful. Thank you

Lisa Hilger

Looks like Nhenha of the Birmingham Boys. Hoping the strength of this coalition beings stability to the prides in the South.

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