It’s hard to to beat a sighting of the complete Mangeni pride right now. With 9 squeaking little cubs, all vying for attention from their adoring mothers, all playing with each other and all with the boundless energy that accompanies youth and innocence, these lions are simply delightful to spend time with.
Having been viewed as a complete pride of 13 for the first time barely a week ago, it is suddenly all systems go when it comes for looking for them on a daily basis. As bad luck would have it their territory lies in the imposing northwestern area of Londolozi, an area renowned for big areas between roads, drainage lines and impenetrable thickets. Finding them can be tough, but is incredibly rewarding, and so far most efforts have been successful. The females seem to have taking a liking to Zebra meat, as the last two kills we have found the pride on have both been zebras.
Hunting primarily around Ximpalapala Koppie, it is a wonderful circle that has been completed, as the four lionesses were born there to the two Tsalala sisters only a few years ago, and now they have cubs of their own that are walking the same game paths that the adult females did with their mothers.
Take a look at this footage of the pride on their latest zebra kill, in the rocky area to the South of Ximpalapala:
What is interesting is the closely crossing paths of the Mangeni and Tsalala prides.
It was the Mangeni females who mauled the old Tailless Tsalala lioness over the remains of a kudu kill, leading to her death. A week or so later, the remaining Tsalala females were advancing down the Manyelethi Riverbed on the scent trail of the Mangeni pride when they got to within about 80m of them, caught sight of them, and promptly turned around, avoiding a confrontation. We don’t think the Mangeni females were even aware of the approach of the Tsalalas.
Then about 5 days ago the Mangeni females were found lying on the banks of the Manyelethi River, barely 50m from where we know the Tailed Tsalala lioness has been denning four very small cubs. We know the cubs were in the den but the mother was not in the area. Again, we doubt if the Mangeni lionesses were aware of the presence of the cubs. If they had been, would they have recognized the scent of their mother and somehow realised that the tiny fur-balls were thus related to them and not to be harmed? Or would they have killed them as the offspring of a rival lioness?
With both prides now having very small cubs to rear, and both sets of females hunting in significantly overlapping territories, it seems as though the prides are on a collision course. The fact that the prides are so closely related but are now operating as independent hunting units throws an extra dynamic into the mix, and there is no way to tell what is going to happen.
Written and photographed by James Tyrrell
Filmed by James Tyrrell and Mike Sutherland