The Mhangeni pride continue to surprise us with where they rear their heads. This morning they were found well East of their core territory, right up against Sparta Pride territory. With the heavy rains over the past week or so, a lot of territorial animals will be forced to head out on patrol, scent marking as they go, in order to re-establish territorial boundaries that may have been washed away. Although lionesses do not scent mark as readily as male lions or even female leopards, they nevertheless leave scent-trails wherever they go. One can often observe a lioness scraping her back feet through her own urine, in an effort to catch the scent on her feet, which she will then take with her as she walks.
Rain, particularly rain as heavy as we have had recently, will necessitate the remarking of territories, but since the Sparta pride have not been near Circuit Pan (where the Mhangeni pride was seen this morning) for a good few weeks, there may be no indicators to the Mhangeni lionesses that the territory is spoken for. In fact, the pan lies in a very interesting position, as the Mhangeni, Sparta and Tsalala prides have all passed it by within the last month. It essentially forms the apex of the territories of three prides.
The pride, as I’m sure a lot of other predators did as well, took advantage of the rains, and brought down an enormous kudu bull one afternoon during a downpour. Ranger Richard Burman and head tracker Richard Siwela were on their way home in the rain when they came upon one of the lionesses lapping up some water from a rainwater puddle on the road. Following her back into a bushwillow thicket they found the pride still feasting on the carcass. The 13 pride members fed through the evening until the Majingilane caught the scent of the kill and moved in to chase the lionesses and cubs away.
Yesterday morning they were tracked and found by Don Hyeneke and Judas Ngomane to the West of camp, but sometime during last night they headed stealthily past the camp, within 100 m of where the Londolozi staff were sleeping peacefully, to emerge this morning on the clearings around Circuit Pan. Have a look at this map to see where this is in relation to their normal territory:
The cliche in the bush is to compare the lions and leopards and their ever-changing fortunes to a soap opera, with the constant drama keeping us, the observers, constantly hooked. In this case, the cliche actually works, and after every drive a group of rangers and trackers can be found discussing the unfolding saga of each pride, each lion and leopard. Observation fuels the debates, speculation maintains them.
I have no idea which way the Mhangeni lionesses will move their cubs tonight. The Sparta pride were tracked southwards through their territory so are relatively far from the Mhangeni pride. Will the Mhangeni lions return to more familiar territory this evening, or will they take advantage of the predicted rain to probe further East?
Anything I predict will be a complete guess, although I’d probably get good odds if Westwards was my choice.
Care to venture a guess?
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell