Two days ago we posted about the Scar-nose male of the Majingilane coalition being in poor shape, and wondered where his old patrol-mate, the Dark-maned male, might be.

We didn’t have long to wait.

Yesterday morning, the excited whooping of hyenas caught ranger Melvin Sambo’s attention, and moving through a thicket towards the source of the calls, Melvin and tracker Milton Khoza saw three things; a leopard in a tree with a kill, a whole lot of hyenas harassing something beyond the leopard, and in the middle of the marauding clan, the Dark-maned Majingilane.

Quite possibly the lion had seen the leopard’s kill and had hoped to steal it, but in his condition that was never going to happen. Whether or not the hyenas had been attracted by the kill or by the presence of the vulnerable male lion, it is hard to say.

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Blind in one eye and with his ribs protruding badly, it can’t be long for the Dark-maned Majingilane… Photograph by Alex Jordan.

Once the most dominant male in the most dominant coalition of the Sabi Sands, it seems a tragedy to have to witness him in this state. Our eyes almost don’t want to take in the reality of what they are seeing. This group of four male lions had been around so long, their presence seems almost inseparable from the concept of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, and call it human indulgence, but we don’t want to imagine a reserve without them.

Only in January, the remaining three (the Missing Canine male was still alive then) were trailing the Mhangeni pride and looking incredibly impressive:

It’s hard to believe that the health of the coalition could have taken such a dramatic turn for the worst in such a short space of time, yet only just over two months later it seems the end is imminent; one of the males from the video above is dead, and the other two are emaciated, separated from each other, and seemingly just hanging on for a few more breaths.

In the sighting from yesterday, the Dark-maned male was being pestered by the hyenas, yet didn’t even make any move to attack them. Reportedly the only time he did make a move of any significance was when a large rhino bull approached, forcing the lion out of the shade in which he was lying. A male lion in his state would barely have the energy to do more than that, and would be ultra-conservative in his movements. He did at one point attempt to excavate a burrow in which a warthog must have been hiding, but nothing came of that.

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The male tries to extract a warthog from its burrow, without any luck. Photograph by Alex Jordan

We drove down to the sighting that evening in the hope that he may still be around, but in the rocky terrain movement in the vehicle was difficult, and we were forced to abandon the search. There is a whole series of hyena dens not far from where the male was seen, so at dusk he probably thought it more than prudent to move on.

The question now is what has happened to him?

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Just like the Scar-nosed male, the Dark-maned male’s mane shows very visible deterioration as he loses condition. Photograph by Alex Jordan.

A number of vehicles have revisited the area but there has been no sign of him for 36hrs. Likewise in the north, there has been no further sign of the Scar-nose male.

Despite the start of this year seeing a number of prominent lions dying, the first being the Tailed Tsalala female, it is never something one can simply get immune to as an observer. There is a certain amount of comfort that we can take in knowing how and where a lion we have spent so much time viewing, died. A simple disappearance and surmising of what happened denies us the closure that we find so important in death, even if it is the death of a wild animal.

The Majingilane were at Londolozi before I was, and have defined the lion dynamics in a large portion of the reserve for my entire life in the bush, and I have to admit that me driving around yesterday evening, searching for the Dark-maned male, had an element of selfishness to it. I think that after so long and so many sightings, although he wouldn’t have a clue who I was or even have the slightest concern for yet another green Land Rover, I felt it was important just to see him one last time, and silently say goodbye.

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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66 Comments

on Another Majingilane at Death’s Door

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Marinda Drake

So sad. We viewed the four Magimgilane several times over the years at Londolozi. It is difficult to accept that we will not see them or read any more stories about them. It is as if they came back to Londolozi to spend their last hours there.

Mj Bradley

The end of an era that has given those of us who followed these once mighty Kings, a pleasure that few are given.. To me they have been one of the most impressive coalitions in recent memory.. They used intelligence and cunning to hold on for almost 8 yrs. I will miss these old warriors, but an so very glad we got to share in a part of their journey.. I find it amazing how (especially) the male lion & leopard go from fit and glorious to old and fading away in such a short period of time. Nature has it way with all living things.. Thank you James for bringing us these Majingilane updates.

Marinda Drake

I have just watched the video posted on the blog of 16 January 2012. Goosebumps. It is the cycle of life but still so sad.

Vaseem Baig

Hi James,
This is incredible and hard to believe news!! since it is coming first hand from a top ranger i have to accept but, have no words to express Dark mane condition and his inevitable demise. I hope the end happens soon in his sleep rather than savage attack from Hyenas. I think these lions get sort of premonition that their death is coming and take these steps of getting separated and go on their own ways, otherwise it is difficult to explain the things that are happening with Magingilanes…..correct me if i am wrong? The sudden turn in events of these legendary lions is something difficult to comprehend.
Thanks again for looking out for Dark mane and updating us that is much appreciated.

James Tyrrell

Hi Vaseem, thanks for the comments. We will see if we can find him over the next few days but he may already be gone…

Deana Amendolia

So it has been confirmed that Golden Mane has passed as well? It is extremely difficult to see them in such a state. It will be so hard to imagine the bush without the mighty Majingilane. When we return in October I hope to head out to the far western reaches of the reserve, and just sit in the sounds of the bush, and remember all good times and long hours we spent with this amazing coalition.

Joel Matthew

So golden mane is definitely dead?
So strange how quickly their fortunes changed
How long have the males been without a pride?

James Tyrrell

Joel I can’t confirm 100% but all reports seem to indicate that he is dead.
The Males have officially been with the Mhangeni pride for the last while, so I think them without a pride is only a recent development.

Joanne Wadsworth

Like others, seeing the decline in a very short period of time is seems surreal. There is a sadness in seeing a wonderfully vibrate and healthy creature become emaciated and weak. I can’t imagine the sadness you, James, and others at Londolozi must feel watching your wild friends disappear from your daily life on the reserve. My sympathy extends to these creatures and to each of you at Londolozi whose life they touched. Were I there I’d give each of you an encouraging hug. So many recent deaths.

James Tyrrell

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for the comments.
I think the sadness is more for the older rangers who were here in the Majingilane heyday. They haven’t really been a feature on Londolozi for the last 3 years so a lot of the newer rangers aren’t as familiar with them.
Still sad to see though

Lachlan Fetterplace

How far from each other are the locations the two were last sighted?

Lachlan Fetterplace

and what is the status of cubs with the Mhangeni females? Will be interesting to see what happens now!

James Tyrrell

Lachlan they don’t have cubs as far as we know. The sub-adults seem to have been pushed into independence, but neither Mhangeni nor Ntsevu prides have cubs right now. With all the mating that’s been going on with the Birmingham males though we’re assuming it won’t be long.

Lachlan Fetterplace

Thanks for the info James. And thanks to you and the team for the long list of great posts on these Lions that have kept me engaged for years. Its a shame I didn’t get to see them in person but I plan to make it there sometime so perhaps it will be the Birmingham Boys that are the coalition for me to see.

James Tyrrell

Probably about 8 km.

Alessandra Cuccato

Unbelievable. It went so fast. Many of us will miss them, they have been around for so long

James Tyrrell

Hi Alessandro.
Almost doesn’t seem real that they are about to go…

Andrew Bolnick

My Son and I visited Londolozi for the first time in October 2017 and he and I were lucky to have Melvin and Milton all to ourselves for four days where we observed these lions close up. Their beauty and majesty will not be forgotten. We were moved by life in the Bush in so many wonderful ways and our trip is forever etched in our memories. Incredible place with great people. We will be back to visit, hopefully in 2019. Thanks again Londolozi

Thiago Medeiros

James, I can’t imagine how are you feeling now about this. I am far, here in Brazil, and I am sad to see this once strong male in this poor condition, it must be hard for you that lives for this. I follow a lot the dynamics about Sabi Sand, almost everyday, looking for info and status about the coalitions, Sabi Sand it’s a place that I plan to go next year and I am already sad that the chance that I have to see the Majingis it’s as good as zero. Thank you for the update about these lions that we all love.

Ian Thomas

Your two articles on the demise of the Majingilane males are exceptional – thank you. Respect and emotion for magnificent lions. If they could read, I believe that they too would thank you.

James Tyrrell

Hi Ian,
Thanks for the comments.
We’ll be searching the areas for the next while in the hope of finding either male, but if there’s no sign of them in the next few weeks, we’ll probably have to assume that both have passed, and we can write a full tribute.
Best regards,
James

Patrik Hutter

Hi James, and greetings to Londolozi!
It is not easy to see the Majingilanes in that bad condition.
We hope that they can hold on to life for some more time.
As a visitor, I will remember the words of ranger Rich Ferrier on a evening game drive forever: “Four bad cowboys riding into the sunset.” Now they are in the sunset of their lives.
Now there is just one comment or wish: everyone knows about their takeover over the Mapogos.
Well the Majingilanes have done a proper 2nd takeover, over the Selati males in the western sector.
In my opinion, that is their major achievement! I cannot remember a coalition doing that. The western sector was in uproar for 4-6 weeks, fights here and there. At the end, one Selati male paid with his life, and the other 2 males fleed to Manyeleti. Without them taking the western sector, there would not be any Ntsevu lionesses, nor Mhangeni subadults.

James Tyrrell

Hi Patrick,
All true. Haha I can imagine Rich making a comment like that!
The irony is that in the Mhangeni females (and therefore Ntsevu females as well), there are Mapogo genes. So you are essentially looking at a fusion of the best of the Mapogo and Majingilane. Quite some legacy both coalitions have established.

Thiago Medeiros

Hi James, I have a question, who are the ones who will carry on the genes of the Majingis? The Otawa male? What happened to the mangheni males, sons of the majingis, grandsons of mapogos?

James Tyrrell

Thiago the Mhangeni males have dispersed somewhere, most likely into the Kruger Park, as there were bigger more dominant males around when they moved out on their own.
Tha Majingilane genes will be carried on through the Ntsevu lioness and all their offspring, the Styx males if they are still around, the younger Tsalala lioness, and if the current sub-adult Mhangeni females survive and forma pride of their own, through them and their offspring too. There are probably others in the Western sector who I don’t know about, but it seems like their legacy is set…

Callum Evans

Those photos are some of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever looked at. It’s really hard to read about this, this once formidable band of lions that were unstoppable for 8 years has now within the space of 2 months gone from kings maintaining their domain to two remaining brothers seperated and both in very bad condition (I’ve seen photos of lions in the Kalahari that were in better shape than they are currently). I want to believe they can hold on but I can see now that they don’t have long.

Callum Evans

It really is the end for the Majingilane (feels really wrong to say that). But their dynasty still lives on and hopefully their sons or grandsons will become future kings in the Sabi Sands.

Ben Franklin

What an amazing coalition of males. Upon hearing the sad news of their condition, I viewed the many Youtube videos of these wonderful males. Linking in to other videos was a clip of the Birmingham males consorting with daughters of the Majingilanes. What fantastic genetics those cubs will have……..

James Tyrrell

Hi Ben,
Indeed. If the Birmingham’s can stay in power for a while we should be seeing some impressive genes come through.
Best Regards

Mak Mapogo

what goes around comes around…long live the Mapogos

Kevin Savage

Not an accurate statement, as it implies the Maginfilane were overcome by another coalition. But unlike the Mapogo, no coalition topped the majingilane. Only Father Time. #justthefactsmac

Ramone Lewis

Is the update today on lion dynamics?

Malavika Gupta

Just terrible to read this. Who are the Majingilanes descendents? Perhaps with time they will form a coalition like their father. And – this is slightly off topic, but do we know if the Mapogos have any descents in/around Sabi?

James Tyrrell

Hi Malavika,
Both coalitions have descendants thankfully. The Mhangeni lionesses were sired by the Mapogo, and they have been very successful so far, birthing the Ntsevu pride (6 females, sired in turn by the Majingilane) and now having 12 of their latest offspring recently become independent (I know 11 of them have been seen together, the 12th possibly unaccounted for for now).
Should these groups all reproduce successfully, the legacy of both the Mapogo and Majingilane will be more than secured.

Vicky

Ahhh, you made me cry even more than on the previous Majingilane post. Like you, I can’t imagine them no longer being around. I do hope you get that final good-bye siting. I would want the same. Say a farewell for us that won’t have that privilege.

Laura Eberly

Beautifully written, this truly is the end of an Era, my condolences to all who have loved being with, seeing and following these magnificent lions. Thank you for letting us know.

Denise Vouri

Wow James, it seems you have become the resident thespian of reporting the demise of favorite leopards and lions. In saying that, I commend you on your sensitive words describing either the passing of a well known leopard or lion as well as documenting the final days of the Majingilane final two. I’m not even there and feel the sadness and concern of all of you. A question- is it possible that this group spent some time within the Singita Sabi Sands concession. If my memory hasn’t failed me, it seems I’ve wstched these boys in the past.

I’m waiting with baited breath for the outcome of all of this , knowing there will be no miracles, but again hoping Dark Mane and Scar Nose will find a secluded place to take their last breaths, true warriors of their time. Thanks for your updates.

James Tyrrell

Hi Denise,
Thanks for the kind words.
In answer to your question, yes, they spent quite a bit of time on the Singita concession, especially since their shift into the western side of the Sabi Sands. Singita would have seen them a lot more than we would have during their last few years.

Jacqueline Mervaillie

Hello James. A great loss for the Londolozi bush but my thoughts go to you first. I know it is a very hard time for you… Jacqueline.

James Tyrrell

Hi Jacqueline,
Thank you very much.
It is hard to watch but that is simply the reality of the natural world.
Looking forward to having you and Yves back next month!
Best regards!

Jacqueline Mervaillie

Hello James. A great loss for the Londolozi bush but my thoughts go to you first… I know you are going through a very hard time. Jacqueline

Mary Beth Wheeler

I can picture you driving around looking for him…I’d be doing the same, just to say goodbye. You and the others have said it all…so sad…

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