Photographs or video. Which one are you going to try capture? Decide now!

Because invariably if you try and bounce between the two during a sighting, you panic, forget to change settings, and ending up ruining both, when you could be getting something amazing.

That was pretty much the gist of it for me when two of the Birmingham males clashed wildly over an Ntsevu lioness. Grant Rodewijk and Jerry Hambana found a mating pair of lions on a large clearing overlooking the Sand River, and as the sun slowly rose in the east, tracker Freddy Ngobeni spotted another male slowly approaching from further down the hill.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt

The second male approaches from the direction of the Sand River.

The first male, from his termite mound vantage point, started growling as he watched his rival approach (both were Birmingham males, but with mating rights at stake, the gloves came off in a heartbeat), the volume of each successive growl rising as the approaching male broke into a canter, coming steaming in at the run.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 2

The approaching male comes charging in.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 3

Teeth bared for the initial contact.

The next few photos of this unbelievably violent clash between two 400 pound predators I am kicking myself about, as a small Combretum tree blocked what could have been something quite worthwhile. The sounds alone were terrible to hear, with both males bellowing at each other, mane-fur flying and viciously hooked claws ripping through skin. The poor lioness meanwhile was rapidly retreating, not wanting to get caught up in the fray.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 4

Not my favourite tree! Despite the blocked view, one still gets a great sense of the power and violence in the altercation.

With the lioness fleeing and the fight eventually having subsided, the male who had initially been with the female took off after her again, trying hard to stay on her scent, with the second male trotting doggedly along behind. The lioness swung in a big loop, moving through some dense bushwillows and then eventually crossing a clearing into another thicket, heading back east, quite possibly changing her direction to deliberately confuse the males.

With such superb senses of smell, the two Birmingham males were on her trail again before too long, having been sniffing around within a few metres of each other, all animosity resolved.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 6

Evidence of the fight; new cuts about the eye and a badly torn lip.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 7

Blood runs down the foreleg of one of the males from a cut inflicted by a razor-sharp claw.

The lioness meanwhile was far ahead, contact calling for the rest of her pride. She shortly disappeared into a thick Tamboti stand.

Birmingham Male Lion Fight Jt 8

The cause of all the trouble puts distance between her and the two males.

Ironically, despite a clash that could easily have resulted in the loss of an eye or other debilitating injury, neither male appeared to come out as the conquerer, and with the lioness long gone, there was no more prize to fight over. Maybe it was simply a reestablishment of the hierarchy within the coalition. We saw similar conflicts between the Majingilane males, although we are yet to work out the exact pecking order within the Birmingham coalition.

Whatever the reason for the fight, it certainly ranks up there with the most memorable sightings of 2018 so far, and the excitement is still buzzing through me now as I type this!

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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17 Comments

on Birmingham Males Brawl Over Lioness

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Debbie York

My 4 year old grandson has asked me whether hyaena can jump? I cannot recall ever seeing them jump but that doesn’t mean that they don’t!

Marinda Drake

Wow! Incredible sighting. It is probably Murphy’s law that every time something like this happen the camera setting is wrong or I actually forgot to push record on the video camera. Looking forward to more interaction between the Birmingham’s.

Marinda Drake

Great video. The Birmingham’s are big boys.

Leo Pards

The Birmingham Male with the Hairy Belly Matimba type mane is the dominant one as per MalaMala ranger. But hierarchy within a coalition can change over time. Injuries and health play a vital role in it.

Ezequiel Almada

Nice article, James, thank you.

Male #3, the one with the darker mane, looks magnificent. I don’t know if it’s the angle, but he looks even bigger than his brother.

Leo Pards

Its his mane over hind legs that deceives the eyes often. The mfumo Male is bigger. The Birmingham’s are slightly larger then Majingilanes and slightly smaller compared to Matimbas.

Darlene Knott

Wow, would I have loved to have been sitting in that vehicle with you all! I feel your pain in regard to that Combretum tree. Too bad you didn’t have time to reposition, but by the time you did, it would have been over! Still very intriguing to see AND to hear. Thanks for sharing, James!

Denise Vouri

Amazing capture Hames! The video is an enlightening look into the testosterone levels of these massive lions. It’s probably wise that the Ntsevu female walked away or something tragic could have happened.

The bush certainly got the best of your still photos but perhaps you could not move the rover without disturbing the players. I hate when that happens.

I understand the Birmingham males are traversing through Singita currently- at least two of them. Busy boys!

Leo Pards

They went and came back. They have been in MalaMala in last few days. And Londolozi as well.

Jill Larone

Wow, if these guys keep it up neither one of them will be around to see cubs!! Great video James and account of what occurred! I remember the Majingilane video with a similar battle over mating rights — incredible!

Callum Evans

If I’m not mistaken, males in a coalition like this will clash over females (and also food) quite often?

James Tyrrell

They will. Particularly over females…

Phil Schultz

1st day back at work, still recovering after our visit to Londolozi last week. Wonder if one of those Birmingham males is the one we watched mating last Wednesday with Grant and Jerry.

Malavika Gupta

Thanks for nail biting video. I have never seen animals in combat. I can only imagine how nerve wracking that must be. You want to stay and watch, but you also don’t want to be caught in any crossfire!

Denise Vouri

So, are they trying to establish a grand territory encompassing all three properties? If so and they’re mating with females they encounter, they could end up as the real masters of their universe, siring many cubs. I’m looking forward to following their journey.

James Tyrrell

Hi Denise,
Usually coalitions will try to establish as large a territory as is sustainable. SO far the Birminghmas haven’t expanded as much as we would have expected, but without significant competition to the west it is likely that they will begin to do so more and more…

Betty-Lou Luijken

I never saw male lions fight, but I did see a fight where a lioness was defending her cubs against two male lions. That day she managed to save the cubs and almast ripped out the tongue of one of the males. I couldn’t get close to the event due to very rocky terrain, but I did manage to capture a shot of the injured male when he came running back. Unfortunately the next day the males came back and killed the cubs anyway.

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