We haven’t done a proper summary of the lion dynamics of Londolozi for a while, so we decided it was time to get everyone up to speed with which lions are doing what and where and how they are all faring. So here, pride by pride and coalition by coalition is the first in a series of updates.
Majingilane: 4 Male Lions
The mighty Majingilane don’t look like being dethroned anytime soon. Still maintaining their iron grip on the heart of the Sabi Sand Reserve, they have defeated all comers, expanding their territory further east and further west in recent months. Forays to the far south and north of the reserve have served as a reminder to neighbouring males and coalitions that the Majingilane are still a potent fighting unit. Have they stretched themselves too thin, though…? We will have to wait and see.
Sparta Pride: 4 Lionesses, 7 cubs
The Sparta pride are in great condition. The four adult lionesses and seven cubs are all thriving, and full bellies every couple of days are indicative of hunting success during the night. The pride successfully killed an impala, a female wildebeest and her calf in a matter of minutes a few nights ago and hardly moved for three days while they digested the meat.
The older lioness of the pride looked to be heavily pregnant for a couple of months, but she has since returned to normal size and bears no signs of lactating, so we can only assume that something went wrong with the pregnancy or birth.
The pride has been walking a similar beat since late last year, from the Maxabene River and the area around Dave’s Donga in the North East to Makhotini Dam and Rocky Tugwaan in the South west, their movements have become fairly predictable of late. Long overnight treks mean that the cubs are having to work hard to keep up, but all look fit and healthy, and the signs are good that a number of the youngsters (aged between abot 7-11 months) will bypass the vulnerable stage of infancy to form valuable members of the pride as a hunting unit, at least until the young males (6 out of 7 cubs) disperse.
Tsalala Pride: 3-5 lionesses. Unknown number of cubs
The trials and tribulations of the Tsalala pride continue, as one of the sub-adults from 2011 is missing, presumed dead. Last seen on our North-eastern boundary in very bad shape after a suspected mauling by other lions, she has not been seen since (over 10 days). Her sister has also not been seen with the pride of late.
The oldest tailless female is soldiering on and is often to be found in the company of her daughters. The good news for the pride is that the younger tailless female is heavily pregnant, and the tailed female has recently given birth on Ximpalapala koppie. We are unsure how many cubs are in the litter, but ranger Tom Imrie could hear the sounds of cubs mewing for milk from a dense thicket up the koppie’s slope as the lioness approached the den, so we presume at least two.
Tsalala Breakaway Pride: 4 Lionesses
Having split from the original Tsalala pride at the time the Majingilane arrived on Londolozi, the Breakaway Tsalala females have since returned and mated with the same males who originally drove them out. Spending a lot of time to the west of our property, we nevertheless encounter these females quite regularly around Ximpalapala koppie and the Gwarrie/Elmon’s Kraal area. Last night they killed an adult wildebeest near Warren’s Rd, much further east than I have encountered them before.
At least one of the females is known to have a single cub, but it has so far been kept in the Mobeni drainage to the west of our boundary. One of the other females is definitely lactating, and when Senior Tracker Renias Mhlongo followed tracks of the pride into a drainage line near Winnis’ Donga, he glimpsed what looked like at least two cubs scuttling away.
No confirmed sightings of the pride’s cubs have been had for awhile, so we will have to wait this one out..
Styx Pride: 5 Lionesses, 2 adolescent males, 3 cubs
This is a pride we rarely see and know little about
The Styx lions generally keep to our North and East and only occasionally stray onto Londolozi territory. Lately we have been seeing their tracks to-ing and fro-ing on the boundary more and more, and we think they may be pushing south and west to take advantage of what is a relatively weak Tsalala pride.
The Styx pride used to venture right down towards the Londolozi airstrip, so with winter approaching and the Sand river dropping, there is a chance they may begin crossing the water onto their old hunting grounds to the east of camp, around Plaque and Winnis’ clearings.
Sparta Males: 2 Male Lions
The Tsalala young male and his companion the Sparta young male have been spending time to our South. Sometimes drifting onto our property, the Tsalala young male has even been seen mating with one of the Tsalala breakaway lionesses.
Now maturing into much larger males, they may be eyeing out the territory of the Southern or Selati pride, which at the moment is only being ruled over by a single dominant male – the Kruger male – and is ripe for conquest.
Just a brief update, I know, but I hope that helps everyone get up to speed on what is happening out there. Lion dynamics are a fascinating part of life in the bush, and with both Tsalala groups giving birth recently, the next few months could make for some fantastic viewing.
Written and photographed by James Tyrrell