On the 5th of this month we ran a post reporting the impending demise of the Hip Scar male from the Majingilane coalition. Seen in very poor condition, we didn’t see how he could recover from the almost skeletal state he was in, and sadly, within ten days, he would indeed be dead.

His carcass was found in the Western Sector of the Sabi Sands, partially consumed by scavengers, thus making him the first of this powerful coalition to die.

The Majingilane came roaring into the Sabi Sands from the Kruger Park in the middle parts of 2010, ushering in a new era in the wake of four years of Mapogo control. I won’t purport to discuss what happened prior to late 2010, as I wasn’t here then, but suffice it to say the Majingilane have been the coalition that have defined the lion dynamics during the six years I have spent at Londolozi. 

Despite the Dark Maned and Scar Nose males almost certainly being the dominant pair of the four, almost always claiming first mating rights when it came to lionesses in oestrus, it was nevertheless the Hip Scar male, with his rich tawny coat and golden eyes, that caught many people’s attention. 

Golden eyes set against an almost golden coat set this male apart from the rest.

On this rainy day the Majingilane were with the then 13-strong Mhangeni pride, and were resting after an unsuccessful buffalo hunt.

We talk a lot about anthropomorphizing, and how it can lead us to make false conclusions about animal behaviour, but without actually humanising certain of his behavioural traits, it is certainly within the bounds of acceptability to say that the temperament of the Hip Scar male was different to the rest. One doesn’t need to go into full detail, but the way he related to the various females and cubs from the prides which the Majingilane controlled seemed to lack the aloofness that the other males would display. Whilst the Dark Maned male would generally choose to lie a little bit away from the rest, it would not be uncommon to find the Hip Scar male in and amongst any cubs that happened to be around, indulging them in their antics.

Marking territory whilst the 9 cubs from the Mhangeni pride of 2013 line the road.

Indulgent on a cold winter’s morning with a cub from the Tsalala pride (that is now one of the Tsalala Breakaway pride)

Not the dominance one would expect from a large male lion; confusion and surprise more than anything else. Again with a Tsalala cub from the 2013 litter.

I can’t really speak for his last two years in which he spent most of his time away from Londolozi, but I don’t imagine things would have changed much. 

The hierarchy within a male lion coalition is largely established form a young age. Some cubs tend to be more boisterous than others, pushing their siblings away from kills and dominating rough games, and already from when they are a few months old male cubs can be forming a pecking order. Male cubs from different litters will often leave a pride together, forced out by their own fathers or new males, and in numbers lie strength, so forming a larger coalition gives them a greater chance of survival as well as a greater chance of taking over their own territory in years to come. Males from the older litters in these groups, although similar sized in maturity, would have had an extended period during sub-adulthood in which the size differences between them and the younger individuals would have been more pronounced, and this period most likely serves to reinforce the established hierarchy.

The Hip Scar male’s status within his own coalition may well have been a product of his youth. Quite possibly he was from a younger litter, and was always fated to occupy the bottom rung. 

When the Majingilane ventured anywhere, the Hip Scar male (closest to camera) would invariably be at the back of the group.

Whether or not the Hip Scar male was lowest on the Majingilane pecking order or not is actually unimportant. As a lion, he was spectacular. Beautiful, majestic, and dare I say it, photogenic.

With his pronounced limp and tag-along-at-the-back status he might not have been seen in the same light as the other apparently more dominant brothers in his coalition, but I personally saw him charging into the fray to take on intruders that threatened his territory, and without him, the Majingilane could almost certainly not have held territory for as long as they have (almost seven years in the reserve).

Call him a vital link in the coalition’s chain, call him the weak link, call him what you will; the fact remains that we have lost an impressive and beautiful animal that served for years as an ambassador for his species. It is in our nature to grieve, but we can take solace from the fact that this magnificent wild lion died from natural causes, and is immortalised in countless images and photo albums around the world. 

Gone but never forgotten. 

Filed under Featured 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 ...

More stories by James

43 Comments

on Farewell to the Hip Scar Male
    Claudine says:

    so sad, what a beautiful creature!

    Lydia says:

    What a marvellous eulogy. Thanks, James.

    Margarita Doychinova says:

    SO SAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Vaseem says:

    truly a fine tribute to beautiful lion the Hipscar! i cannot forget that moment when he came straight towards me an year ago as if to greet which indeed is an exhilarating experience of my lifetime. thanks for the wonderful blog and as rightly said the lions are animals and we simply should not associate their natural behavior with humans and judge……

    Kim Sams says:

    What a wonderful eulogy for a magnificent lion. Thank you

    Vickie D. says:

    Very sad, but wonderful to know he passed of natural causes.

    KJS says:

    I’m glad the article talked about his paternal nature. Aside from his eyes, this is how I will remember him – as a steward to the majingilane’s many offspring. Thank you!

    Mary Ann says:

    Thank you for telling us his story!

    Jeff Rodgers says:

    We were fortunate to see the other 3 males several times during our visit a month ago. Sad that the fourth is gone.

    Mike ryan says:

    Thanks James the dynamics of the future will be interesting

    Ezequiel says:

    Interesting opinion in the hierarchy subject.

    I always thought that he was second in dominance after Dark mane, at least in their first years as kings before he got the bad leg.

    I find it very interesting you say Scar nose was more dominant than him, to me Scar nose always seemed to be the most passive of the four. I’ve seen footage of Golden mane(mostly) and Hip scar getting into brawls with Dark mane over women and food, but Scar nose got the hell out of incoming trouble when Dark mane looked to want something.

    Also, I always thought he and Dark mane were the older brothers, Golden mane and Scar nose being the younger brothers.

    But anyway, thanks for the article and pics James. He will not be forgotten.

    Ann Seagle says:

    Thanks…well written👌

    Les Moodie says:

    Such beautiful colouring. As James said, its a consolation that his death was due to natural causes. Sleep well old boy.

    ykanadid@yahoo says:

    Sad for making RIP

    Michael & Terri Klauber says:

    We will miss him and are sad to hear the news. He was Terri’s favorite with those golden eyes!

    Evette Hartig says:

    beautifully said.

    Brenda Quatember says:

    A beautiful tribute to a magnificent lion, thank you James!

    Lynn Rattray says:

    So sorry to hear this. I had the pleasure of viewing him with his brothers and also spent time with the ‘babies’ in 2013. Wonderful memories!

    LM says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful tribute. I’ve only been following this coalition for about 3 years and have often wished I knew their entire story. It’s nice to have a little bit of Hip Scar’s background. I’m sad I didn’t know of him and his brothers years ago. I’m heavy hearted that he has passed, but happy that he died the life of a wild Lion, and not at human hands. James – you’re very blessed to have been at Londolozi and witnessed these amazing Lions.

    Sherri says:

    9 times out of 10, he was always there to protect & he was treated like shite, when he needed them the most. Calling night & day, but they just ignored him 😢 RIP HAS, no more suffering big guy 😢

    Tshokwane says:

    As a fellow lion expert I preach the importance of distancing ourselves from antropomorphic bias. Even though you cross into that territory, it is understandable because the Majingilane are simply History’s most brutal killers. I too will shed a tear from the greatest lion coalition of all time passing.

    Barry Stewart says:

    That’s a brilliant video of the story of the majingilane pride—-thankyou for sharing -brutal but real nature

    Cynthia House says:

    Just when I was wondering what this magnificent lions fate was after reading about his poor condition I find out that he has gone. Thank you for a wonderful tribute to a majestic and impressive lion. Yes I feel sad but I am pleased to know that he died of natural causes, if only it was the case for all of them.

    Lea says:

    James, thank you so much for this beautiful article and, I guess, eulogy, for Hip Scar. He was indeed a magnificent looking specimen of a male lion and, it appeared he had the patience with the younguns – as shown in the photos. A very sad ending for him, but, as you say, he died of natural causes, in the bush and will be immortalized in pictures and memories. Rest in Peace dear Hip Scar.

    Irene Nathanson says:

    Beautiful photos and wonderful writing!

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