Remembering the past often helps to explain current events. Hence, I feel it useful to wind back the clock a few years and write about a great lion of the past.
The Shaw’s Male (aka Rollercoaster Male) was born into the Castleton Pride in 1996. The same pride which ultimately gave us the Tsalala Pride. Once a coalition of 6, the Shaw’s Males looked, at times, to be en-route to greatness. This was cut short, however, by impeding lion attacks. Between 2001 and 2006 these 6 males had been whittled down to just 2. Although they did suffer numerous setbacks this did not stop them from becoming dominant over the Selati (2003), Sparta (2006) and then Styx (2007) Prides. Sadly, in June 2007, a crocodile at Londolozi killed one of the remaining two brothers. A harsh reminder of the ingenuity of these reptiles and the vulnerability of even the great ‘Kings of the Jungle’.
The lone Shaw’s Male continued to control the Sparta and Styx pride well into his old age but the loss of his brother was telling on his physical condition. Daily scraps and hunts left him ragged and without a coalition to fall back on, he started struggling. It was during this time, mid 2008, that the Tsalala Young Male (see previous blog post) had ventured off by himself into Sparta and Dudley. After a short while he would meet up with the Sparta Pride and the aging Shaw’s Male. Textbooks will tell you that the Shaw’s Male should have killed this new male. He was of a new blood line and was young, aspiring and a direct threat to the Shaw’s Male’s position and rank. Yet age soon started catching up with the Shaw’s Male and the slow downward spiral began. He shocked us all by accepting the Tsalala Young Male into the Sparta Pride: a move interpreted by many as a form of ‘adoption’.
The repercussions were huge as he suddenly had the backing of a young, strong, creative and ambitious male. An understudy and sidekick! This would help him hunt buffalo and protect his pride. This move proved crucial in the lengthening of his tenure of the crown. But by May 2009 he started loosing control, first of the Styx Pride and then of the Sparta Pride. We would often find him wondering around like a battle-scarred warrior, but he fought nobly and became an expert at scavenging food. People’s hearts warmed to a lion destined for doom and gloom, but not ready to concede defeat to neither old age nor the marauding Mapogo Males in the north.
By late 2009 he was in a very poor state and on the 1st January 2010 the Shaw’s Males was no more. He had lived an amazing life. He had left an incredible legacy.
This sudden death would change the lion dynamics in the Sabi Sands, especially with regard to the Sparta Pride. The Breakaway Sparta Pride would form and mate with the Mapogo (see previous blog post). It would also leave the Tsalala Young Male, then aged about 4,5 in a very difficult position. He was still not sexually mature but had almost, by default, been handed the power to the throne.
The understanding of the context in which the Tsalala Young Male now finds himself make for an interesting conjecture. The question we are all asking is what will become of the Tsalala Young Male? Will he take on the role of being the dominant Sparta Pride male, a position made all the more difficult by the fearsome Majingilane coalition (see previous blog post) or will he club together with the other sub-adult males in the pride and move away as a coalition in their own right? Perhaps then they can buy their time, put on some weight and strength and come back to claim their stake. We look on intrigued as Lion Warfare continues!
Images by: Lee Ann Heringer