A few weeks ago the four members of the Southern Coalition launched a successful attack on the remaining members of the Mapogo Coalition. This attack left the infamous Mr T (aka Satan) dead and last two remaining Mapogo members fleeing for their lives. The demise of this king has left many a question mark as to the movements of the various lion prides and males in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and how these dynamics will play out in the weeks and months to come. It is now obvious that a domino effect is rippling through the Sabi Sands and surrounding reserves. Individual lions are on edge and the tension and anticipation of the next event is building, both amongst the lion and human population. We are in the midst of yet another changing of the guard.
As it stands the remaining two Mapogo Males appear to have thrown in the towel on their old domain and have run south facing pressure from the Majingilane Coalition, the Southern Coalition and the KNP Males. Sightings of these aging males are occurring throughout the south and occasionally central areas of Londolozi, whilst the aspiring Southern Coalition appear to have claimed the entire western section of the Sabi Sands. As the winter draws closer, we can only conjure up guesses as to how this new territorial dominance will shape up and what sequence of events will unfold next, particularly after the Mapogos run in with the Majingilane and KNP Males over this past weekend.
Here is my theory as to what may transpire in the coming weeks leading up to Winter at Londolozi…
The two prides that occupy the western areas; namely the Castleton (Ximungwe) and Othawa Prides are destined to be ruled by the four Southern Males. Both these prides currently have cubs sired by Mapogo, a potentially sad reality should the Southern Coalition kill them in order to restart the oestrus cycle of the lionesses. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before we see the males catch and kill these cubs, wiping out any further trace of the Mapogo bloodline. I would not be surprised if we see four deaths in each pride before the spring. The lionesses however, will not let these lives be lost without a fight! Already I have heard rumours that the four strong lionesses from the Castleton Pride have managed to beat off one of the males who came too close. If the Southern Males thought that they had an easy ride ahead then they were wrong.
I feel that the four Majingilane Males are a more solid entity now more than ever before. Of late I have seen them working powerfully as a team and attempting to sire yet more cubs into the Sparta Pride. They currently control four prides (Fourways, Styx, Sparta and Tsalala) and patrol an area roughly 15 000 – 20 000 hectares in size. Their strange relationship with the core of the Tsalala Pride still leaves many a question as to their dominance north of the Sand River: an area which the ever-growing six Matimba Males will observe with a glint in their eye. Despite this, I do not predict much movement between these two forces. I feel that with so much land, both coalitions will be content, for now at least, to populate their prides and avoid any unnecessary violent encouters. I do however expect Majingilane to spend an increasing amount of time on their western boundary, in an attempt to curb any Southern Coalition movement towards Londolozi.
The two Nkahuma Males and the two Othawa sub-adults continue to run the gauntlet. I can not see any place for these two small coalitions. My gut tells me that we will see a death taking place in one of these two groups. These males, all born in 2007, simply will not be able to counter an attack by either Southern, Majingilane, Mapogo or Matimba claw. The two Othawa sub-adults are at this stage, the only sons of Mapogo lineage to have reached independence. It is for this reason that I am secretly hoping they can pull through. Perhaps a wise move for them would be a sprint east into the Kruger National Park and beyond.
That leaves the two remaining Mapogo Males, referred to by many as Bent-Spine and Makulu. I fear that they are in trouble. In my opinion they wont risk another run in with Southern Males. If the Majingilane stick together as four than they are simply too strong. Years are not going to be kind on these surviving two. So this leaves them with south. The southern areas are currently patrolled by two exceptionally strong males called the Kruger Males. If it came to a two on two battle I would place my money on the Kruger Males. And this is where I feel the final battle ground and resting place of the legendary Mapogo may lie. My guess is that the death of both Mapogos will take place in the winter time, and sooner rather than later… This mornings numerous lion sightings confirm that things are heading on a collision course. All four Majingilane Males were accounted for, as were the Sparta Pride females. One Mapogo male was seen feeding on a waterbuck with an unknown lioness and then two unknown males (possibly the KNP males) were seen together with four lionesses. Every drive is unpredictable and offers the opportunity for the story of lion warfare to unfold!
I know I have placed a pretty grim look on the chessboard of the Sabi Sands, but that is how I see it playing out. It may not be as rapid as I predict but in the bush veld time marches to the beat of its own drum. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on my predictions and if you have any opinions of your own. Please let me know in the comments section below.
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographed by: Rich Laburn