After our previous blog post on The Demise of the Tsalala Pride, former Londolozi Head Ranger, Oliver Sinclair, wrote up a brief history of the Tsalala Pride to fill in the gaps for our readers who want to gain a deeper understanding of this prides history. Oliver was at Londolozi during the course of the below events.
2 and 4 – The Legend of a Small Pride as Remembered by a Ranger
The 2 lioness that had left the Castleton Pride to have their cubs were last seen taking their 7 newborn cubs north at Taylor’s Crossing (in those days we didn’t traverse north of the Sand River – (1998). When they returned 2 months later they were down to 4 cubs, 2 males and 2 females, thus they became affectionately known as 2 and 4. They spent most of their time on the river roads east and west of the camp often being found around Tsalala Pan (sometimes the guests had to get on the land rovers at the kitchen because the lions were in the car park).
The Sparta Pride dominated most of Sparta at the time and was a much larger pride. Being a smaller pride they quickly adapted and would hunt by day and rest at night. Thus they didn’t have to compete with the larger pride. They became very efficient warthog and waterbuck hunters making a marked impact on the local populations of both these species.
Unfortunately hyena’s killed one of the young females and one of the young males had his back broken by one of the dominant 5 males (The Fathers of the Mapogos) when he got too close to the action on a buffalo kill at Maddies Dam. He never gave up though and every day he dragged his back legs along as he tried to follow the pride but after a month of tirelessly slogging across the property he finally succumbed. One of the adult lionesses also disappeared (She was kicked by a zebra and later died) and so the single lioness took her remaining 2 cubs (one of which is the current Tail Less Tsalala Female) and went north across the river – (1999).
It was a year before we began traversing north of the river (2000). The excitement of exploring new areas and of course, what had happened to our lions, the Tsalala Pride? We could no longer call them 2 and 4 and so decided to give them a territorial name, an area we thought to be central to their territory – hence the Tsalala Pride after Tsalala Pan. Tsalala is the Shangaan name for Gardenia.
I’ll never forget driving along Nanga Road in the north and finding the Tsalala Pride lying next to the road. The lioness was looking strong and she still had her 2 cubs, except they weren’t cubs anymore. They were now 4 years old and the male had developed into a most beautiful specimen of a lion. He was large with broad shoulders and a full mane that was both light and dark. The Tsalala Pride had adopted another male of a similar age to the beautiful male but he didn’t compare to the regalness of this young male. The adopted young male eventually left the pride and joined the Sparta Pride where he was able to bond with five very young male lions and in time the six of them would become the Mapogos. This was around 2002/2003.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the 5 dominant males at the time that would lead to the beautiful male’s demise. The next time he was seen was hanging from a tree in the community, already skinned. The anti-poaching team had followed the track of a wheelbarrow in the west of the Sabi Sands and this track led them to him hanging lifeless in a marula tree, a result of being poached by individuals in the outside community.
The Tsalala Pride were back down to 2 females, mother and daughter (Tail Less Female). The mother eventually died of old age north of Ximpalapala koppie and the daughter has been the backbone of the pride for the last number of years. She has no tail (lost in a skirmish with hyena’s) but this doesn’t seem to have hampered her in any way. She has continued to hunt and breed and provide for her pride. She has raised females and passed on invaluable experience that will help continue the legacy of this pride.
Ever since this pride broke away from the Castleton Pride they have faced challenges but have always managed to overcome them. It is a pride that has touched many hearts (I can’t remember how many guests sat on my vehicle and cried when they watched the young male dragging himself with his front legs behind the pride trying to keep up).These won’t be the last tears that are shed for the Tsalala Pride, rather just another chapter in their wonderful story.