The rather subdued roar of a male lion came from near the Londolozi airstrip early in the morning. Within minutes ranger Mrisho Lugenge had found one of the Birmingham males in company with what looked to be a Mhangeni lioness, lying on the high bank of a waterhole to the south of the Londolozi camps. After a couple of mating bouts in the thickets, they moved out towards the tarmac of the airstrip, where they would continue to mate throughout the morning, by the end of which a second mating pair had been found only a few hundred metres further west, also comprised of a Birmingham male and a Mhangeni lioness.

Mhangeni Birmingham Jt

The first mating pair of Mhangeni lioness and Birmoingham male copulate near the Londolozi airstrip.

With the Mhangeni females starting to spend less and less time with their sub-adult offspring (exactly the same thing that they did with the Ntsevu females when they were young), it seems as though they may be looking to reproduce again.

This raises a few questions.

Firstly, why do these Mhangeni lionesses not want their female offspring to stay with them? The traditional understanding of lion prides has females remaining in the pride they are born into, adding to the hunting numbers which ultimately helps in cub survival. At least that’s the gist of it. Yet it seems like for the second time the adult Mhangeni females are about to force out what could be some potentially valuable pride-members. It’s too early to make that call, but what has been happening is a remarkable case of bush deja vu.
The best explanation I can come up with – if this is going to be the pride’s M.O. – is that the Mhangeni females themselves left their own pride at a young age. It’s too long a history to get into for now, but you can read about their formation by clicking here.

Mhangeni Subs Lion Jt

Four Mhangeni sub-adults and one adult female(second from right) look towards where a kudu was barking at them. Well, apart from the male on the left. Last time a big group of group of sub-adults split from the pride, we saw both males and females staying together for a few months before the males left and the females formed the Ntsevu pride.

Since they would have grown up not knowing the value of retaining females in a pride, to learn and then pass on their experience to younger lionesses, it is plausible that upon their own offspring approaching maturity, they see them as competition more than anything, or at last see their responsibility towards them waning, and they are happy for them to disperse.

Mhangeni Subs Lion Jt 2

A Mhangeni sub-adult female looks back towards the rest of the pride. We may well see her and the other two young females striking out on their own over the next year.

Please understand this is merely conjecture. I have no proof of this and am going solely on what has been observed over the last couple of years. If this means that the current female sub-adults (three of them) breakaway to form another pride, I certainly won’t be complaining. It’s just that this behaviour goes against what has been recorded as standard lion behaviour in the past.

Secondly – and this is a big one – why are two Mhangeni lionesses coming all the way east to mate with two Birmingham males? For years the pride has had the Majingilane as their dominant coalition, and both big groups of cubs (2013 and 2016) were sired by these males. Now, the lionesses are leaving their territory to mate with what for them are essentially new males. Does this mean that there is some sort of recognition that the Majingilane are well past their prime? Is this investment into what the Mhangeni females believe may be their next dominant coalition?

If trends of the past are anything to go by, the Birmingham males may well end up moving west, as we’ve seen both the Majingilane and Mapogo spending their last days as dominant males in the western sector of the Sabi Sand Reserve.
The Majingilane spread themselves very thin at one point, controlling a massive area that included practically all of Londolozi, a significant chunk of Mala Mala, eastern Singita, and territory up into the Northern Sector of the reserve. Big territory means a lot of energy expended to patrol it and control it though, so if the Birmingham males end up doing the same and taking over a territory of comparable size, we will most likely see similar behaviour to the Majingilane circa 2012-2013; a lot of vocalisation and the males covering big distances as they demarcate their boundaries.

Birmingham Male Lion Jt

We have hardly ever seen all the Birmingham males together, but that is typical of a big coalition.

That will certainly make for exceptional male lion viewing, but all that’s really happened so far is two Birmingham males are mating with two Mhangeni females.

It’s nice to dream though.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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on Mhangeni Lionesses with Birmingham Males: What Does This Mean?

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Marinda Drake

Interesting lion dynamics. James I think your theory that because the Mhangeni lionesses did not grow up with their mothers in the pride, and don’t want their ofspring to stay around to long might be correct. I saw a photo of the Magingilane today on Instagram and they look very old. With new prides forming from the Mhangeni pride the genes of the Tsalala pride still live on.

Denise Vouri

Well, life in the Londolozi realm is certainly not dull. I spent a bit of time with the Mhagene pride last year in Singita, all 16 strong, and marveled at their strength and beauty. Saying this, I have noted this large pride seems to move effortlessly throughout the region- Londolozi today, Mala Mala tomorrow.

It seems rather exciting that there could be a union between the Mhagene females and the Birmingham males leading to a new mega pride. As they say, stay tuned!!

J Sebastian Cadavid V

Thank you for the info. How many males form the Birmingham Coalition?

James Tyrrell

Four males, down from what I believe was 5 originally…

Thiago Medeiros

That’s correct James, they were five, the 5th male know as “Scrapper” died off health issues, some kind of disease.

Carmen Fernandez

Hi…how much are the flights from Cape town to ur lodge??…I’m thinking of going in Dec 2018..thank you

Callum Evans

That’s a very interesting development in regards to both the apparenr eviction of the Mhangeni subadults (can’t think of any reasons besides yours that the adults would want to evict their female offspring) and how the Mhangeni have now switched alligiances from the Majingilane to the Birminghams. It’s defintely going to be a very tense time waiting to see what happens.

Thiago Medeiros

James, from what you are seeing about their movements, do you see any possibility of a take over coming from the Birminghans towards the Majingis? Or they are too far away from eachother?

Joanna Hicks

We were at Londolozi towards the end of January – and had a FABULOUS time, of course! I am enquiring how things went on with the very sad loss of 2 dead hippo in 1 pond – it was early days when we were there so presume they were eventually ‘sorted out’ by the animals/vultures around?

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