There has been a coup in the Sabi Sands….
If you are one of those avid fans of wildlife that have your finger on the pulse of the big cat comings and goings within the Sabi Sands then you will already know of the recent shift in lion dynamics and the demise of one of the famed Mapogo lions ‘Kinky Tail’.
Good news travels fast but bad news like winter wildfires. The bush telegraph has been buzzing and excitable Rangers and Trackers have been pausing on communal boundary lines to tell the grim tale and make soothsayer like predictions of the rollon effect this might have. You Tube has the film footage, Facebook is a flurry and Twitter…well is twittering.
‘Kinky Tail’ and his famed brother ‘Satan’ are 2 of the notorious coalition of 6 male lions that have roamed the better portion of the SSGR for the last 4 years and monopolised its lionesses and buffalo. Named as Mapogo after a heavy handed security firm in Johannesburg, they have delighted the humans (and probably only the humans) of this wilderness area with their presence. Male lions all come with the territory but this has been a special time for us and we’ve been spoilt with this abundance of power and largesse.
It’s been a long time since all 6 males were together. 4 have made the western sector their home whilst ‘Kinky Tail’ and ‘Satan’ have managed the eastern frontier. Most of the Trackers at Londolozi will tell you that they were over extended, too far from the comfort of numbers and in danger of running into another ‘coalition’ coveting their land and lionesses. As usual their instincts were spot on and the inevitable trouble arrived. The eastern duo have been fighting a running battle with 5 new males from the Kruger who have steadily been advancing into the territory.
A few nights ago ‘Kinky Tail’ and ‘Satan’ cornered and killed one of these usurperers. Undaunted by their loss, the remaining 4 rested up for the day and exacted revenge the following evening by killing and then eating ‘Kinky Tail’. ‘Satan’ apparently arrived late on the scene and received a severe mauling that we are waiting to discover whether or not is fatal. Nevertheless he is on the run and his days are numbered.
The observers of these events have wondered whether the survivor will run back to the apparent safety net of his brothers. It’s unclear however whether or not that coalition is still intact and what sort of welcome he may receive. More than likely he is alone in this battle.
When the dust is settled and these males have worked out the proprietership of this land, the new landlords will settle into the same destructive course that the Mapogo took. Cubs will be killed and lionesses destroyed in the defence of their litters. New matings will take place and fluffy litters produced. It seems excessive but that is the nature of their existence. Somewhere in the new litters that we will eventually see will be little males carefully being nursed to take up the role of their fathers.
Years from now similar events will take place. The humans will shake their heads and be aghast at the seeming pointlessness of it all. But truthfully, I wonder whether we shouldn’t rather rejoice in being afforded the opportunities to witness firsthand the evolutionary processes at play?
If in the course of reading this you come to the conclusion that the author is not too disturbed by recent event or does not seem overly compassionate you would be mistaken. It’s just that I have watched the coalition destroy the Ximmovanyane Pride and their 7 youngsters as well as eating the Kruger male in 2006 and furthermore dispatching the Tsalala Prides 6 cubs. We have seen the show before and I am guessing the next season has just started
Written by: Tom Imrie
Photographed by: Adam Bannister
Filmed by: Rich Laburn