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This is way overdue, as I’m sure many of you will agree.
To be honest I didn’t really know what to say for a long time; caught between the sadness at the end of eight years of Majingilane viewing and the excitement of the Birmingham males’ steady territorial expansion onto Londolozi.
How can one sum up a coalition’s tenure of 8 years in a few lines? The sightings on Londolozi alone could fill an entire book, and there was a stage at which the four Majingilane, superb examples of lionhood, were dominant over almost half the Sabi Sand Reserve, and in their wanderings there was almost no lodge that wouldn’t have seen them at least once; from the deep south of the reserve, right up to the north from whence they first came.
Do we represent them in terms of offspring sired, lionesses covered, buffaloes killed or total area of dominion? To quantify the Majingilane in terms of numbers would almost detract from their wildness, so ultimately, we figured it best to leave this as a purely photographic post, in which people could simply look and remember.
I’ll leave you with something I posted on Instagram when it seemed as though the Dark Maned male had finally passed, although his body was never found. It seems almost right that he, the most dominant of the coalition, was the last to go…:
The sun sets on one of the great lion coalitions of Southern Africa. The scar-nosed Majingilane is now the third of this illustrious coalition to depart this earth, with the fourth and final male (Dark-maned) still unaccounted for but very possibly dead as well. There is a lot of social media side-taking when it comes to lions, which I find ironic, as to do what we do to and for sports teams or athletes in terms of support and idolizing really has no place here. These lions are not superstars. Our cheering from the sidelines or favouritism in no way prolongs their lives or helps them hunt or reproduce. Despite having the keenest hearing, they are essentially deaf to all that is said about them on blogs, Facebook or Instagram. What they SHOULD be lauded for – and I’ll gladly join in and sing their praises here – is their continued legacy as ambassadors for their species. True icons in a world that, more than ever, needs to recognize the value of its wild places, in which utterly magnificent creatures such as these still roam free.
At the end of the post we’ve embedded the original Majingilane Short Film made by Rich Laburn during the Majingilane’s rise to dominance.
Enjoy this photographic walk down memory lane with four of the Southern Africa’s most memorable lions.
The early days. A young coalition (circa 2011) in the days when they were still approaching their prime.
The Dark-maned male on the move. This was the night when the Majingilane – I think specifically the scar-nosed male – killed one of the Tsalala cubs, shortly after it had returned to the pride after being missing for a couple of weeks. The Majingilane always had a curious relationship with the Tsalala pride, being particularly aggressive towards the 2011 litters. There is still speculation as to who exactly those litters were fathered by…
One thing noticeable during the height of the Majingilane’s reign on Londolozi was the marked drop in hyena numbers on the reserve. There is no better control mechanism for the hyena population than big, aggressive male lions.
Lions are nothing if not opportunistic, and an elephant carcass is an incredible bounty of meat that will last even a large coalition for days.
The Sparta pride had brought down a large giraffe quite close to camp, and of course the dominant males had moved in to claim their share. That is actually unfair, as the kill took place in the middle of the night, so the males may well have had a part to play. Here the Scar-nosed male cleans blood off his paw.
The Scar-nose and Hip-scar males enjoy a nuzzle on a cold winter’s morning. Males in coalitions are almost always related, and any mutual grooming or affectionate behaviour strengthens their bonds.
One of the coalition surges across the Sand River towards ranger Richard Ferrier’s vehicle.
An iconic shot of the Scar-nosed male and Missing canine male in the background (also sometimes referred to as the Golden Maned male.)
The Missing canine male lifts his head and peers out from where he had been sleeping behind a knobthorn tree.
When a coalition takes over a territory, relationships are naturally going to be strained between them and the local prides for a while, sometimes months. It took a long time before the Sparta and Tsalala prides were comfortable enough with the four new males to mate with them.
Aggression between males of the same coalition can be extremely high. This photograph is of the Dark-maned male (right) and the Hip-Scar male, who were establishing their hierarchy once and for all. Two of the Sparta females were in oestrus and the males came to blows to see who got to mate first.
Ranger Lucien Beaumont and tracker James Siwela watch one of the males cross a clearing very close to camp, heading towards where one of his brothers was calling on the airstrip nearby.
The Dark-maned Majingilane looks west towards the Ulusaba Koppies, possibly listening for roars of the Selati coalition. This was at the time when the Majingilane were expanding westwards, following the Mhangeni females who were establishing territory to the west of Londolozi.
The Dark-maned male emerges from the mist.
The coalition was already showing signs of ageing, way back in early 2014, yet it would be another 4 years before they were finally gone..
The four males assemble across the Sand River from Varty Camp. With such a big territory to patrol, the coalition was usually split, and seeing all four together was a rare event, especially seeing them all next to each other and in the open.
A lions-crossing-the-river shot is much prized amongst the guiding team. David Dampier seemed to be in the right place at the right time more often than most.
An isolated point of light can add that much more menace to a male lion, as Jacqui Marais’ shot of the Hip-scar male shows here.
The Majingilane ruled with an iron fist, as an intruding coalition found out to their cost one day in 2012, when the Majingilane caught them on their southern boundary and mauled the male in this picture severely, until a bull elephant wandered by, charged the lot of them, and allowed the young male to make his escape.
A photo from the opposite side of the action, this time by ranger Lucien Beaumont, as the young male swipes for his life at the Missing-canine Majingilane. The Scar-nosed male is on the right of the picture.
Invariably big male lions will follow behind their prides. On this day (the same day as the shot in front of Varty camp incidentally), all four males had followed the Tsalala lionesses to where they had finished a buffalo kill in the river, and to see the looks of abject disappointment on the male’s faces after being led to an already consumed kill, was rather comical.
A timeless black and white image from ranger Mike Sutherland.
For whatever reason, the Dark maned and Scar Nose males were the duo seen together the most regularly. From interactions over the years, it appeared as these two were the first- and second ranked individuals within the coalition. Almost fittingly, they were also the two that survived the longest, both passing away within a couple of weeks of each other earlier this year.
As they were regularly patrolling huge tracts of land throughout the Sabi Sand reserve, sometimes only their footprints would betray where the Majingilane had walked, and sometimes only a fleeting glimpse of a lion crossing a riverbed in the distance – like this shot of the Dark-maned male in the Manyelethi – were what we had to make do with.
Ranger Dean Smithyman and guests enjoy a front-row seat to a walk-by from the missing canine male.
The coalition cross Fluffy’s Clearing on a blustery winter’s day.
The Dark-maned male looks back towards where the Tsalala pride were laying in the sands of the Manyelethi riverbed.
The Scar-nosed male leads the dark-maned and Hip-scar male behind the Mhangeni pride on a wet December morning. The Mhangeni lionesses had just had a crack at hunting a buffalo herd with the males in attendance, but nothing had come of it, and as the weather cleared the whole group of 17 lions got moving. As usual, it was the males bringing up the rear.
The four Majingilane in their prime. One of Southern Africa’s truly iconic coalitions.
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 ...