The Majingilane have been spending an inordinate amount of time north of the Sand River recently. Rumours of a coalition of 7 moving into the northern reaches of the park have been filtering down to us recently, and hostile roars from this direction may have prompted the Majingilane to reinforce their borders.
It was early morning a couple of days ago when we heard familiar roars reverberating from out of the Manyelethi River area. Before the sun had even poked it’s head up over the eastern horizon the Majingilane with the scar-nose had been found, lying quietly for the moment while a herd of elephants browsed nearby. He roared once or twice for us, but all-in-all seemed content to not move very far.
Meanwhile tracker Andrea Sithole together with ranger Lucien Beaumont had found the Tsalala Pride lying near Nyelethi Pan, a couple of kilometers away. They began moving west, and the occasional roar from the females was answered by the male we were with.
He headed in their direction, and anticipating them meeting up, we left him to wind his way through the buffalo thorns, in order to wait with the lionesses for him to arrive.
The pride of four females were just north of Ximpalapala koppie by the time we saw them, but as we were moving in to were they were lying, we noticed something dangling from a nearby marula tree; it was the remains of an impala carcass, and the Ximpalapala young female leopard was lying further along the branch from which it hung!
A leopard in a tree was too beautiful a sighting to miss, so we stayed with her while the lions lay down nearby. The day was getting warm and it was unlikely they would move much further.
Ranger Tom Imrie was with the lionesses by this time, but knowing the leopard was nearby, also made his way to our position. As he arrived, the young leopard scuttled down the tree and into a nearby bush, and we at first assumed it was the sudden arrival of two vehicles that had made her nervous.
How wrong we were.
Up over the hill walked the hip-scar Majingilane. Moving with intent, he had obviously seen the leopard and carcass in the tree, and was approaching for a closer look.
He didn’t hang around. A little sniff around the base of the tree at first, a rock back onto his heels, and then a launch up onto the trunk. his weight hampered him and it was by no means a dignified ascent, but he made it up to the fork without too much trouble. Unfortunately the kill was hanging just out of his reach.
After a slip-slide-sprawl back to the ground, it was the turn of the lionesses, who came trotting in to investigate the commotion. Up went the younger tailless lioness, followed closely by her sister. Their mother was not to be outdone, and despite her age also managed to join her daughter in the boughs of the marula.
The sub-adult lioness, still harried remorselessly by the Majingilane, was holding her own on the ground, running at first from the hip-scarred male but then standing up to him and giving him a few nasty whacks on the nose.
Meanwhile, the scar-nosed Majingilane who we had left earlier that morning, had covered the few kilometers to the koppie in a very short time, and was now watching all the activity from about 50m away.
The older tailless female had descended to the ground by now, but her two daughters were still fighting over the carcass up in the main fork. After a smaller branch they were leaning on broke and nearly had them tumbling out of the tree, they decided it would be wiser to join their mother below. The tailed lioness came down first, slightly more gracefully than the Majingilane, and immediately ran off to get the meat (which to be honest did not look worth the effort as it was mainly skin and bones) away from the two male lions. The hip-scarred male gave chase however, and had soon robbed her of her portion of the kill.
Her sister fared no better, coming down a minute later and having the scar-nosed male chase her ignominiously towards the koppie, also to steal her hard earned-meal.
The arrival of a third Majingilane on the scene (the dark-maned male) was more than we could handle, but the action was over for the morning, as he simply strolled in, his belly full and swinging beneath him, and flopped down in the shade. We believe he had stolen a kill from the Tsalala Pride near Nyelethi Pan, since this is where his tracks came from and where the hungry-looking lionesses had been found first, and had simply followed their scent to their new resting place.
Whatever we suspected had happened during the night, we were thrilled with the morning’s events. Three lionesses in a tree at once with only one of them having a tail must surely be a first for Londolozi, the Kruger Park and surrounding reserves!
Certainly one of the most incredible lion sightings I have ever witnessed!
Watch out for the video of this sighting coming soon! We are just working out a few bugs…
Written by James Tyrrell
Photographed by Etienne De Villiers (Londolozi Guest)