I always believed that male lions were as close to immortal as possible. Sleeping by day and feeding by night, their dark-maned figures patrolling the rugged bushveld and their proud shadows echoing through the night. I placed them on a pedestal as ‘The King of the Jungle’ and the animal I had chosen to come back reincarnated as. Although I knew that each one eventually died, I always imagined their end as the result of a fierce and proud battle for territory or females. A quick and noble death rather than the slow demise of condition and deterioration of self…how wrong I was.
Londolozi has taught me many things; one of which is that it is not easy getting to the top. What’s more, once you are up there everyone wants to bring you down. It is one male lion that has taught me this. For the last year he has moved under the radar, keeping his distance from the large prides and fleeing at the scent or sound of the fitter, healthier and younger collations of Mapogo or Majingilane. We see him very seldom yet we know he is around. The odd lonely track, the scavenged remains of an impala. He is a nomad, a male who has no territory, no brothers to lean on and no females to help him hunt. He is alone!
We know very little about this male. We do not know where he came from or how old he is. We don’t even have a name for him. All I know is that he is special to me and that when on the very rare occasion I do get the privilege to see him it is always a sad and happy moment. I am happy to see that the rogue is still alive, but sad to see how he slowly is withering away. I am sad to see that kings do die slowly. I am sad to see that kings do die alone.
Purely for interest sake I decided to take photos of this male to keep a record of change…to show myself and others how brutal life out in the bush can be. Last week this male lion was discovered along and in a crumpled heap. This King has now died…
Written and Photographed by: Adam Bannister