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).
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.
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.
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.
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.