It is no secret that the drought is continuing to prevail here at Londolozi. Although it is quite distressing to see conditions deteriorate, this natural process is showing up some new and interesting interactions as animals find new ways to survive and others to thrive. One of the most obvious of these is the continued battles between lions and buffalo. The evenly-matched, intense battles we’ve come to know from these two species are no longer and the tables have most definitely turned in favour of the lions. In the last three weeks, there is one pride in particular that has taught us something remarkable.

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A group of buffalo jump up from their afternoon resting spot to run from a Mhangeni breakaway lioness. This hunt was unsuccessful, mainly due to the poor approach tactics from the lioness. The lions were incredibly full and we think the bungled attempt may have been as a result of the lions just trying their luck more than anything else. Photograph by James Tyrrell

As water and grazing becomes more scarce, the buffalo herds are beginning to splinter and small groups can be found dotted throughout Londolozi. This is necessary as the buffalo are being forced to spread out to find resources. One of the results of this though is that the herds are not nearly as proficient at defending themselves against predators as they would normally be. Firstly there are less ears, eyes and noses to sense imminent danger and they are also not nearly as likely to be able to turn on the lions and drive them back because the herds are just not substantial enough.  Individually, the buffalo are all much weaker as well due to the prolonged poor grazing conditions.

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The rest of the pride lie waiting at the base of the crest, watching as the buffalo race away from them. The hunt was ruined as the one lioness photographed here broke cover to soon. Photograph by James Tyrrell

What the fragmentation of these herds also means is that wherever lions move, they tend to bump into small isolated buffalo groups that trigger their predatory instincts. Despite having full bellies and often just having come off a kill, the opportunistic instinct to hunt takes over and the lions have been repeatedly chasing buffalo even after just having left a carcass. In fact, just the other day, the Mhangeni breakaway pride got up and walked away from a buffalo carcass where about 90% of the meat was remaining. This may seem completely absurd, almost unbelievable but it seems that the lions know how weak the buffalo are at the moment and there is absolutely no pressure to clean up a carcass because other opportunities are so easy to come by.

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The Mhangeni breakaway pride rest at a waterhole after having finished a buffalo kill. They were joined on this kill by the Matimba coalition, who don’t seem to bother with hunting much, only joining the females once they’ve bought down the prey. Photograph by James Tyrrell

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A Mhangeni breakaway lioness investigates an old buffalo bull that has come down to drink at a waterhole. The buffalo are so weak at the moment that even single lions are attempting hunts. Photograph by Sean Cresswell

This pride in particular has been amazing us with their hunting prowess. The Mhangeni Breakways – made up of six young lionesses just over three years in age – have been proving that they are hunting machines. I am fully aware of how weak the buffalo currently are, but a few nights ago, the pride managed to kill three adults in one go! Given their age and experience levels, this is a remarkable feat. In fact it seems that in the space of two weeks this pride has killed 15 buffalo!

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A photograph from one of the recent successful hunts. Despite these lionesses being just three years of age and lacking much experience, they ae bringing down big buffalo bulls such as this without much effort. Photograph by Sean Cresswell

mhangeni breakawy, buffalo, oct 16, SC

Photograph by Sean Cresswell

It is also incredibly exciting to see that two of these young lionesses are pregnant and now we are almost certain that they will not re-group with their original pride. Because they have not spent much time with the original core pride at all lately, it is highly unlikely that they would risk taking newborn cubs and attempt to integrate them with their mothers and aunts. It seems history is repeating itself as this is basically a carbon copy of how the core Mhangeni Pride formed from the Tsalala Pride in 2013. Spending their time now in central and southern Sparta we are excited by the prospect of having a new, stable pride in the heart of Londolozi.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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6 Comments

on Londolozi Newest Lion Pride
    Tyler says:

    What exciting stuff to witness! That last bull doesn’t seem at all concerned with his fate.

    Gillian Evans says:

    Great photos Sean.. The Mhangeheni Pride are a force to be reckoned with! Thanks for sharing with us Amy.

    Alexa says:

    Oh dear I’m slightly confused. Are these the very same young lionesses who were with the 3 other Mhangeni breakaway sub-adult males (and 1 Talamati male)? Weren’t there only 3 females with them, and not six? I believe I’ve gotten some details mixed up. Would someone be kind enough to correct me? Great article & photos by the way. I love reading the blog!

    Edouard Paiva says:

    Amy Attenborough hope you are doing great, do you have information of the measurements height at the shoulders and weight of male and female Lions of Londolozi? They look big in your pictures? Hope you can answer my important question. Thanks for all your pictures and information. Regards

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Edouard I’m sorry but I don’t have this information for you. In order to know this we would have to dart these lions and we have no reason to do so. Sorry I can’t provide you with a better answer. Thanks, Amy

    Edouard Paiva says:

    Amy Thanks a lot for your answer, very good to know that Lions are not bothered by man in Londolozi, they look like they are big Lions.
    Regards,
    Edouard

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