With the passing of the Tailless lioness, there has obviously been a lot of discussion in the last few days about the future of the Tsalala Pride – or at least the single remaining lioness – and the likely shift in territories of the surrounding prides going forward.
With the very real possibility (I’ll stop myself from saying probability) of the ultimate extinction of the Tsalala name, it struck me that the only tragedy therein is in the human constructs assigned to the lions, and we don’t actually have to worry.

Tailed Tsalala Lioness Jt 2

The Tsalala sisters head up towards the Londolozi airstrip.

As mentioned in the post from two days ago, the Tsalala lionesses have left behind multiple offspring and descendants to further their genetic line. Without going into the history in too much detail (it’s all available on this blog over the last couple of years), the Mhangeni pride of four lionesses (possibly only three now) split from the Tsalala pride, and the Ntsevu pride in turn split from the Mhangeni pride.

Following so far?

Without counting the current Mhangeni sub-adults, who are prowling round the south of the reserve and are likely going to establish themselves into a new pride as well, we’re already looking at 10 direct descendants of the two Tsalala sisters, or if we really want to be specific, of the original Tailless female herself.

The original Tailless lioness who was born in 1998. This image was taken before her encounter with the hyenas that left her tailless.

Because of the splitting of prides that has been occurring over the last while – which seems unorthodox but actually happens far more frequently in the wild than many people are aware of – it has been rather easy to lose sight of the fact that genetically, the Tsalala, Mhangeni and Ntsevu prides are essentially all one family. Despite how they may react to each other if they meet (have a look at the Londolozi Instagram post from Thursday of a Mhangeni female getting attacked by the Ntsevu lionesses), the only thing different about them is that they are three prides instead of one. We should be glad they split, immensely glad, as the lion viewing has been far more prolific as a result.

The Ntsevu pride goes on the hunt.

Should the original Tsalala pride have remained together, I’m fairly confident that not as many cubs would have survived, and we certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the same type of lion viewing that we are today. When I said earlier that the human constructs were the only things that should concern us with the potential disappearance of the Tsalalas, I was implying that if you really dig deep enough into it, Ntsevu and Mhangeni females are really just Tsalala lionesses in different guises. We are the ones who named the new prides, we are the ones who grieve when an iconic lioness dies. Not that the grief is a bad thing, but if it’s for the Tsalala name, it is misplaced to a degree.

The Tsalala pride cross the Sand River in 2015. All four sub-adults from this photo are still alive.

The Tsalalas are still out there, their legacy intact. What their descendants are named is secondary to their bloodline, which, currently, I would go so far as to say is the strongest in the Sabi Sand Reserve. A bold statement I know, but with three contemporary prides all having come from the same original lioness, it surely can’t be far from the truth.


Filed under 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 The Tsalala Legacy

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

They way you put it James is correct. The Tsalala genes live on in the Mhangene and Ntsevu prides. We tend to humanise everything and it is essentialy just nature.

Joanne Wadsworth

A worthy tribute to the bloodline.

Ian Hall

Nicely pointed out

Darlene Knott

How very true, James. They are all of the same family, but their names, assigned by humans, are different. Very interesting. By the way, the photo of the Ntsevu pride is stunning! Thanks for the thought provoking article!

Denise Vouri

Thank you for the thoughtful blog, illiterating the history of the Tsala pride. I’ve not seen the Tsala or Ntsevu prides, that I’m aware of, but am fortunate have spent time with the Mhagene ladies and cubs – 16 strong at the time. It was like being at a lion convention!!

Now with the Birmingham males seducing the Ntsevu and Mhagene ladies, the stories to come will be exciting.

Irene Nathanson

I have been so lucky to have seen the Tsalala lion pride since 2011. Thank you for this wonderful tribute and the information that t explains the descendants and that her bloodline goes on. There were two tailess lionesses one just had cubs last year? Are they both gone?

Andrew Bolnick


Some really great shots. Being able to show friends just how much the Londolozi experience is interactive is appreciated. Thanks again

Mj Bradley

Thank you, James. You are right and the names we humans have assigned to these lioness matters not at all to them. I am very happy to know that BB (as the original Tailless Lioness was called in the North) has done well to populate the Southern Sabi Sands. I think they BB & her Tailless Daughter are special in their taking the youngsters away from danger and raising them on their own until they could be independent.. The Tsalala’s will always conjure up good memories and smiles for me.. I will look forward to following the Mhengeni & Ntsevu Prides into the future. But I still hold out hope for the lone Tsalala female.

Mike Ryan

Great blog James so fascinating to see the changing dynamics unfold.great coming back to see the old favourites but even better to anticipate new unpredictable experiences

Chris Cordon

Hi James. Thanks for explaining things about the tsalalas in this blog.
Off topic, but did you ever write a tribute to the Majingilane coalition?

Callum Evans

That is definitely a very strong legacy! I often forget that the Mhangeni and Ntsevu Prides are relatives of the Tsalala Pride. So the legacy of the Tailless Lioness can be found in three strong prides in Sabi Sands and hopefully a fourth if the Mhangeni subadults establish themselves.

Michael & Terri Klauber

James, Thanks for the reminder of the amazing legacy left by the famed and loved Tailess lioness! It will be wonderful to see how that lineage continues!

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