An old male lion, ousted from his territory and suddenly nomadic, will always have a haunted look in his eyes.
Without trying to sound fanciful or assume he has human emotions, you can see that the reality of his situation has in whatever way it does for lions, started to sink in. With no more pride to provide regular meals, no more territory to defend, and with almost every roar in the night air the sound of an enemy that will wish to kill you, the harsh reality for these males is that they have switched roles from the hunter to the hunted.
Such was the case with the Scar-nosed Majingilane when I saw him this morning. Gaunt and weathered, he was moving through a relatively open space to the north of camp. It was still early and the air was still, yet he wasn’t roaring. He wasn’t even listening for roaring, something he would have done time without number when he and his coalition were dominant over probably half the Sabi Sand Wildtuin.
He had an air of defeat about him, and his sunken eyes with dark rings around them that indicate a male lion at the end of his days, didn’t instil a feeling of awe as they must have done to observers thousands of times. No, what I and I’m sure others felt while watching him move through the gwarrie bushes was an emotion I’ve never before had one of this magnificent coalition evoke in me.
It was pity.
Reports have been filtering in over the last while that a second member of this coalition has died. The Golden mane or Missing canine male, whichever title people chose to call him by, has not been seen for a few weeks. One report said that he had been badly injured by a buffalo, and as an older lion is far less able to recover from a serious wound than a young one in its prime, it would come as no surprise to find out that he succumbed to injuries sustained.
In a way the sequential and individual demise of each member of the coalition is fitting.
The hip-scar male was the first to go, as we always suspected he would be. Somehow the outsider of the group, he was always the one off on his own, his roars regularly going unanswered by his brothers.
The Missing canine male, although he spent more time with the Dark-maned and Scar-nosed males, seemed to be firmly established as the third most dominant, never taking first mating rights over oestrus females.
The Scar-nosed and Dark-maned males themselves were always the core of the group. Almost inseparable, if there were two Majingilane together it would almost invariably be them.
But now even this formidable twosome seems to have split, quite possibly for the last time. The Dark-maned male was reportedly seen on Sabi Sabi two days ago, badly emaciated and seemingly in no condition to hunt for himself (report to be confirmed), and then the Scar-nosed male was seen this morning on Londolozi, also looking frail.
With no coalition actively having forced these male out, it seems like age has finally caught up with them.
After 8 years of dominion over much of the Sabi Sands, and having ousted and then warded off numerous other coalitions, the only adversary for which they had no defence, was time.