He looked like a rough cut diamond. The torn ears, bleeding snout and lacerated lip framed the fiercely burning fire that still raged on is his eyes. This male lion was once part of a nomadic pride of 6. Now, he finds himself covering vast distances of his territory alone to secure dominance and ownership. His prides are sparsely scattered and food is never guaranteed. So what went down?
For the coalition of the 6 Mapogo males, their former glory seems to be a thing of the past. Born as part of the Sparta pride in the 2001/2002 summer season, the 5 males cubs eventually formed a coalition with an older male member of the Tsalala Pride to form a nomadic coalition of 6. Departing from their birthplace, loaded with testosterone, muscle and a genetic subconscious drive to conquer, the coalition explored the wilderness. By 2006 they returned to unleash a four year reign of terror which carries on to this day. Over 30 lionesses and cubs have been killed and, surprisingly, eaten in order to secure dominance and territory throughout the Sabi Sands game reserve and beyond. Things however, are not the way that they started.
The coalition has changed over the course of four years. Two brothers, ‘Mohawk’ & ‘Kinky Tail’ used to control territory that falls in Londolozi, the northern sector and to the east of the Sand River…now only one does. The remaining four control the western sector. Owing to the large area that these five lions dominate, it is impossible to know what their current relationship is. Have they split up for good? How have they divided their spoils of victory? Do they communicate at all with one another?
Storms clouds are brewing as the new coalition of five males have moved in from the Kruger Park boundary to the east and clashed with the two Mapogo brothers, killing Kinky Tail. To the south a coalition of 3 males, secure in their current territory, are looking north to Mapogo stomping grounds. Is it possible that 3 years of running organised territorial battles is steadily coming to an abrupt end. Is this the final battle cry that will see territory usurped and prides reformed?
It is at time like these that the tranquility of the bushveld becomes truly wild. The calm serenity of nature is blanketed in a bruised cloud of uncertainty. Violence and war is on the horizon and as with all battles in the natural world, the ancient processes will have their say one way or another. Or perhaps not…
Perhaps these lions will settle calmly into the massive tracts of land they now control. Could it be that they may feel satiated with what they already have? Could it be they they will shy away from conflict rather than fight? Could it be that chaos and violence is not always the genetic subconscious driver for lions?
The real question to be asked is if we want them to fight? If we want to fulfill our own primal desires to spectate violence in the wild? And if the answer is yes what does that tell us about our own human nature in comparison to wild lions and the fire burning in their eyes?
Filmed, Photographed & Written by Rich Laburn