The Tailless female has succumbed to her wounds.

Her body was discovered at Marthly Pools, on the banks of the Manyelethi River, within metres of where her mother was also discovered when she died in 2013 at almost exactly the same age.

Don Heyneke messaged me yesterday to tell me that her body had been found; pretty much at the same place where she was seen injured just over a week ago. It seems likely that she hardly moved at all from that spot, and at some point she would have simply drifted into unconsciousness for the last time.

Tailless Female Manyelethi Jt

A photo taken in the Manyelethi River a few weeks ago, very close to where she ultimately took her last breath.

When I heard of her death, I didn’t really know how to feel.
This was something the Londolozi rangers and trackers always knew was likely to happen this year, yet being confronted by the reality left me with a kind of numbness. It wasn’t so much a sense of grief, but rather incomprehension.
The realisation that I will be returning from leave to a Londolozi without either of the Tsalala sisters roaming it was something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around for awhile. Two lionesses who have helped shape my understanding of lions, their population dynamics and their place in an African wilderness are no more, and especially in the context of human wildlife-viewing, the world is poorer for their loss.

The old lioness surveys her domain from the Londolozi airstrip. Photograph by Callum Gowar

Since 2002 the soft footfalls of the two senior Tsalala females trod the game paths and dirt tracks of Londolozi and its surrounding reserves; their offspring delighted visitors from all over the world, and their daily struggles were front and centre in the ever changing saga that is the Lions of Londolozi.

And now just like that, the Tsalala pride is practically gone. One single lioness, a daughter of the Tailed female’s litter of 2013, stands as the only bastion of hope for this pride. Even the word “pride” is a misnomer now, as only one female doesn’t qualify for that title. Her three brothers that have recently returned and been accompanying her are unlikely to remain in the area, but the Tsalala lions have surprised us before, so I won’t be making any predictions just yet.

The Tailless lioness only a year ago. Still as strong and healthy as ever. Lions seem to deteriorate from injury at an exponentially faster rate when they start getting old. Photograph by Callum Gowar

Whatever the fate of the pride’s name, if one examines the history of the Tailless lioness and her sister, both can rest content, with around 20 of their offspring and descendants currently healthy and roaming the Sabi Sand Reserve, with even more than that possibly still alive and well in the Greater Kruger Park.

As a reproductive entity, an organism needs to reproduce itself and have that offspring reproductively viable in order to consider itself a genetic success, and the Tsalala lionesses have done that many times over.

Tsalala Cubs Jt

The four cubs pictured here in 2013, accompanying their mother the tailed female, are all still alive. Three males and one female. They are all that still bear the Tsalala name.

I don’t want to turn this into a biology lesson, but while we may mourn the death of the Tailless female, and grieve the passing of a truly iconic period in the annals of the Lions of Londolozi, we can be immensely grateful to this incredible lioness and her sister. Whilst simply doing what they as lionesses were programmed to do, they furthered their species’ interests and secured their own legacy in spectacular fashion.

Tsalalagrass JT

Tracked on foot many times over the course of her life, the first warning one would often get from the Tailless female of her proximity was a low growl emanating from a thick glass clump like this.

Modern technology is incredible. Never before have trackers, guides and lodges been able to document and share information in the way that they do now with email, Watsapp, or any one of twenty other different means. Pride movements, wild dog ranges, leopard cub updates; all are logged and communicated. Should a dramatic incident take place, it’s seldom long before the airwaves are buzzing with the news.

Yet never before in my 8 years in the bush have I seen such a collective sadness as when the news of the Tailless female’s death broke yesterday. Messages were flying through the bush, and rangers from multiple lodges I know were communicating with each other what happened, their condolences, and general good wishes in the wake of the passing of this lioness.

I find it wonderful that yesterday evening in Londolozi and the Sabi Sand Reserve as a whole, with the temperatures in the single digits, the night sky emblazoned with stars and the distant roars of the Birmingham males filtering through the chill, rangers and trackers and various staff all gathered together to have a quiet drink in celebration of the life a truly remarkable lion.

Filed under Featured 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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44 Comments

on The End of an Era: Tailless Lioness Dies

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Riandi Appelgryn

o wow, what a tribute, once again great writing James. Very sad news indeed but like you said, never give up hope with the one female still around…. thank you for the updates.

Marinda Drake

It is sad that the Tsalalas are no more. Even more so the tailless females. It is the end of an era. Is the young female all on her own or is she in the company of her three brothers? Will she be able to hunt for herself and survive or even join another pride? Will she roam with her brothers?

Shelley Bold

Sad time but we must celebrate her life as a wild and free lion. So many don’t get the privilege

Rick Nhim

Correct

Brian Everitt

Beautiful tribute James to such an amazing lioness she was such a pride leader great mother , aunt , sister she’s going to be truly missed.

Mike Ryan

It was a privilege to have spent time with her and her mother. So many stories about how she knew when to protect her young.

Marilyn Thornbery

i am so saddened to read of her death- may she run wild and free with her mother from heaven above.

Denise Vouri

It’s a beautiful tribute to such an amazing lioness. She will be missed and my hope is that her daughter can carry on the legacy of this once competent and impressive pride. After 8 years of living with these amazing animals, I truly understand your feelings of loss, knowing that you will never see the tailless lioness padding along those roads and paths, bringing excitement and joy to rangers and guests alike. From my little bastion here in Northern California, I will raise a toast to this brave lioness, and hope that I may see her progeny when I visit next year.

Richard Thomas

Very moving. She did the job, bestowed on her by nature, wonderfully.

Mj Bradley

Thank you James for a fitting farewell to my favorite lioness.. She and her mother were amazing. I can only hope that maybe the brothers can re-establish a pride with their sister. I know it is not what is considered ideal, but for one generation it shouldn’t hurt the genetics.. The Tailless spent so much time keeping these ‘last of the Tsalala’ safe for those years they wandered the bush, it would be a shame for it to end this way. Again thank you for the blog and I will give a toast to a wonderfully long and fruitful life of a truly wild & free lioness.

Penny Tainton

James, I just love the way you continue to share and involve us in the journey of each of these individual majestic animals. Your blogs invoke a daily reminder of the incredible and valuable wealth of beauty in our country and continent, and bring the sights, sounds and smells of the wild into our office board-rooms and homes. It is a privilege to feel part of the family. Thank you.

Michael & Terri Klauber

James, Thanks for the beautiful remembrance of the Tailess. We feel so fortunate to have spent so much time with her and the rest of that pride. We remember our last sighting of her and her niece was at Marthly Pools (with Nick Kleer) when she patiently hid while her niece unsuccessfully tried to surprise a big herd of Imapala at the water. She was clearly teaching one of the next generation the patience needed to have success in hunting! We will remember her and the rest of that pride through the 100’s of images we have of them and hope to see a bright future for the Tsalala’s that remain!

Dawn Phillips

A very emotional story. Her remarkable history, told in Londolozi blogs gone by is the story that motivated my passion for lions and her in particular. When I arrived at the Londolozi airstrip – picked up by Alistar – he asked if there was anything in that we really wanted to see while there, I excitedly answered ‘the tailless lion’. In an almost unbelievable hit of luck, 10 minutes into our first safari – there she was – with her sister and the cubs feeding on a male kudu. We watched them for most of the morning – eating, drinking at the river. She captured my heart. I was dreading this day and this report, although very well written. I too share in your grief at her passing. However it is gratifying to know that she will always live on in your stories, our photos and memories.

Darlene Knott

What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lioness. We are all born to die, but hopefully live each day we have. It sounds like the Tailless lioness did just that. RIP!

Ian Hall

I was going through my photos of my tri[ to Londolozi earlier today and there was the tailless lioness. Sad to hear of her passing, I guess that as nature abhors a vacuum (other than in the ethics of politicians) another pride will move in.

Mary Beth Wheeler

What a lovely tribute, James. We’ve so enjoyed spending time with her – and her mother – and appreciated her protective, mothering skills. I hope the 3 brothers and their sister can find a way forward.

Lachlan Fetterplace

It was a pleasure to read so many captivating stories about this amazing lioness over the years & an excellent, though sad, tribute to finish.

Joanne Wadsworth

I join with the others in appreciating your tribute while also mourning the inevitable loss of the Tailess from her injuries. I salute her and hope that somehow the line will continue with the one female and three males remaining. Thank you James for keeping us abreast of the heartbeat of the bush in Londolozi….it’s become a part of our every day life.

Susan Strauss

So sad and yet I think of the beautiful life she lived. What is the latest on her cub? I may have missed an earlier update.

Jody Konopinski

I am honored to have gotten to see this lion last year. I had read about her before my visit, and really wanted to see her in person. She was so beautiful, seeing her right next to our vehicle was even better than I had imagined! I am so saddened to hear of her death, but happy that her descendants are still roaming Londolozi. This was a lovely tribute!

Gemma Kemps

I raise my glass to amazing lioness. When my husband and I visited last May we had the honor of seeing the tailless lion and her mother with their cubs. What honor! I am sad to hear she succumbed to her injuries. However lets hope the last of the Tsalala lioness can persevere thru and bring some cubs into the world and build a pride again. Fingers Crossed.

Laura Eberly

Beautifully said, thank you! She is being remembered around the world. 🤧
The end of an era, a true “patroness” in the lion kingdom.

Christa Blessing

Poor lioness!
Though I am glad that she does not have to suffer any longer.
These animals are so amazing.

Judith Guffey

An unforgettable lioness. Thank you for telling this story.

Anthony Goldman

Fantastic tribute,James it was such a privledge to be able to see the Tsalala and witness them up close for so many years but sad news indeed!

Phil Schultz

Two weeks ago after dark I watched her get a drink before crossing the Sand River in one of many memorable sightings at Londolozi. It was only a day or two after that when reports were posted here of the Tailess female’s injuries. Feel fortunate to have crossed paths multiple times with the Tsalala pride at Londolozi. My first visit in 2016 I was mesmerized watching the pride on a buffalo kill one day. The next morning we found a Tsalala female with two 3 month old cubs on a kudu kill near Ximpalala koppe and then the following morning tracked the two Matimba males (father of the cubs) back to the kudu kill with cubs and mother still present. I’ve traveled the globe in search of amazing wildlife sightings from Alaska to Africa, from Antarctica to the Arctic and these sightings along with an amazing sighting of the Mashaba female leopard and her yearling cub feeding on an impala carcass in a tree made my 2016 visit to Londolozi the most incredible wildlife experience I’ve ever had. I was surprised. Not the Masai Mara, nor the Serengeti, nor the Okavango could compare. I returned to a Londolozi a few weeks ago to see if my first visit was a fluke…just a stroke of good luck. It wasn’t. You shouldn’t be able to enter the African bush with any expectations. It isn’t a zoo and should be spontaneous, but if you are fortunate enough to visit Londolozi, prepare to have your every expectation exceeded. A truly amazing place. The Tsalala tailess female was a part of that place and she will be missed. And yet the band plays on.

James Tyrrell

Hi Phil,
Brilliantly said! Thanks for your kind words.
Planned the return visit yet?

Phil Schultz

Ha ha. No. Traveling to Southern Africa from The a States isn’t cheap and there’s a lot of world out there. That said, I have little doubt I’ll be back some time in the next few years.

Lauren Bolton

I’m not crying <3

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