A few weeks ago we ran a piece on the Tsalala Pride in which we speculated that the 8th and final survivor of the two 2011 litters had been killed. We are happy to report that this was premature and that the young lioness is not only alive and well, but possibly, and this most certainly IS speculation, making the first inroads into a healthier relationship with the Majingilane.
To put it simply, the Majingilane have been the bane of this poor lioness’ life. This is the coalition of males that fathered the two 2011 litters, yet their relationship with the Tsalala Pride, and more specifically the two sub-adults who survived the longest from those litters (only one of which is still alive) has been somewhat testy.
Why is this so?
Possibly we need to refer back to the previous group of dominant male lions who ruled over Londolozi and indeed a huge chunk of the Sabi Sands; the infamous Mapogo. The Mapogo, although fearsome in reputation, were not by the real measure a successful coalition. Have a read of the report by iDube Lodge in the Western Sector published when the Selati Males dethroned the Mapogo to get an idea of what I mean. As mentioned a few days ago in the piece on the 5:5 male leopard, the true mark of success in nature is reproduction, and the passing on of genes. We could divert hugely at this point into Darwinian theory and ‘survival of the fittest’ etc., but let’s keep it simple and state simply that the Mapogo were not great at getting litters through to maturity.
In-fighting and confusion over paternity meant that the Mapogo were known to repeatedly kill litters fathered by their own coalition-mates. This we think was due in part to the enormous territory they occupied, spreading themselves thin and never quite sure who had mated with which lioness.
Is a similar thing happening with the Majingilane? Their extensive territory incorporates that of the Tsalala Pride, but for some reason their relationship with these females has never been as healthy as the one they have with the Sparta Pride.
It began in late 2011, when one of the Tsalala Cubs was killed by the Majingilane, and the youngsters of the pride have been running from the coalition ever since.
This morning, however, tracks of at least one lioness from the Tsalala Pride and one male lion crossed the Londolozi airstrip heading west. Eventually, the lions were found just west of our boundary, and the exciting news was that the young female was lying with them, not running away. Although she kept casting a wary eye towards the male, she was not scared off by the presence of one of the Majingilanes as she usually would be, as over the last year the males have repeatedly tried to kill her (we believe her sister, who disappeared a few months ago, was badly mauled by the Majingilane just before her disappearance).
So why the change?
Was it just this particular male who has begun to accept the lioness? She is still a couple of years from full sexual maturity, but even so, the Majingilane coalition fathered her, and although male lions are known to mate with their daughters (there is only a small window of time during which this could happen), would the fact that she is a potential future mate (incest aside) be a reason for the Majingilane to now accept her?
The problem with the bush is that no matter how much you read in a text-book, there are always new things to see and unexplained incidents taking place. The lions don’t often stick to the formula and are always keeping us guessing. Pride dynamics in particular are one of the truly fascinating facets of life at Londolozi.
Every thought that comes into my head sparks more questions so I’ll stop now and leave it by saying that the young Tsalala lioness is alive and well. She was seen to kill a duiker the other day and so is coming into her own as a hunter. I’m sure her extended amount of time spent alone forced her to become proficient at an earlier age than most.
Good news all round. Oh, and the Tailed lioness from the pride appears to be pregnant.
More lion updates next week…
Written and photographed by James Tyrrell