The Tsalala pride has been featuring prominently of late. Basing themselves on the clearings on both sides of the Sand River, we have enjoyed some wonderful viewing of these lions and their cubs over the last couple of months. However, it seems to me, as I’m sure it does to many of the other rangers, that the pride is not covering as much territory as it once was. Shortly after I arrived at Londolozi, the two adult lionesses in the pride both gave birth to litters of four. So we had 8 little cubs tottering along after their mothers, all over the northern reaches of the reserve. Up to Nanga pan, across the northern boundary, across to the Maliliwane area and back down to Ximpalapala koppie these lions would roam. Obviously 8 cubs makes for potentially wonderful viewing, so on almost every drive rangers and trackers were heading out to find these lions, occasionally returning unsuccessful as the pride had simply vanished into the middle of one of the big blocks by which the North is characterised.
Lately, however, it seems that all one has to do is to drive a little way along the river in either direction and you will bump into them. Okay that’s not entirely true and sometimes they aren’t found for a couple of days at a time, but more often than not, when they are found, it is within a relatively narrow strip of land that runs past camp, north and south of the river.
Historically, the Tsalala pride’s territory has been predominantly in the north, but with the arrival of the Mhangeni pride on the scene, that territory has shrunken as the large Mhangeni females have been seen to be operating in ever-increasing swathes, hunting mainly zebra as they work to provide food for their nine growing cubs. Of course, the Tsalala pride’s current areas of focus could have to do with the boom in wildebeest and impala numbers on the clearings during the birthing season, and this winter may see them venturing further afield once more.
We have yet to see a proper clash between the two prides, and we are unsure as to whether there will ever be one, owing to the fact that the Mhangeni lionesses are the daughters of the Tsalalas. The one thing that is clear though, is that where we once found the Tsalala lionesses patrolling on a regular basis, it is now their daughters’ pride whose tracks we follow in the sand.
Sightings of the Tsalala pride have increased to the east of our boundary, further suggesting pressure from the west.
This is simply another chapter in the ever-changing saga of the lions of Londolozi, and whatever the size of the territory the Tsalala pride is operating on, they are still here and we still get to view them regularly. Which isn’t half bad!
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell