It wasn’t too long ago that we were worried about the Sparta Pride. One of the three adult females was nursing an injured ankle and the sub-adults were not contributing too much to the hunts. The Mhangeni pride was encroaching onto their territory, and in what we suspect was a clash between the prides, one of the Sparta sub-adults received severe wounds to the spine and flanks, becoming progressively weaker as a result and dying a few weeks later. The pride seemed to be in trouble.
Fast forward a few months and things are looking up! The pride has been moving north to reclaim some of their old territory, and have been seen to the east of camp, close to the Sand River, on what has until recently been Tsalala-dominated ground. The first time I saw the Sparta pride they were sleeping on the Londolozi airstrip, only a kilometre or so from camp, but since then they have been pushed further south and east.
All of a sudden, with the sub-adults reaching an age at which they can successfully take part in the hunts, it seems that the pride has within the space of a few short weeks once more become a force to be reckoned with. Have a look at last week’s Monday post, and you will see an efficient hunting unit in action. That kill took place on a clearing on which the pride had not been seen for years, and it is likely that since they have effectively made the transition from a pride of three hunters and five youngsters to a pride of eight hunters, they are reclaiming some of their lost land, feeling a growing confidence that they have not had since their senior lionesses died.
The Tsalala pride has been operating North of the Sand River for some time now, and their regular forays South seem to have decreased in frequency. With the Mhangeni pride shifting further South and West, the north has opened up considerably for the Tsalala females, as they no longer have to worry about competing with their daughters’ pride. All of this has opened the way for the Sparta pride to move back north.
The next question is about the Majingilane. Should they sire new litters with the three adult Sparta females, will they reign for long enough to get those cubs through to maturity? We probably need to be looking at another two or three years of control to ensure the safety of the next generation of Sparta lions, but should the Majingilane be overthrown in that time, it is likely the cubs will all be killed. Reports from the South is that the Sand River males (which we think was the coalition chased off by the Majingilane 18 months ago) have killed the Sparta young male and chased the Tsalala young male off, and are now hunting the lone Kruger male. Should they succeed in catching and killing him, or at least chasing him off, things should settle down considerably in Southern pride territory. Having been defeated once by the Majingilane, will these new males look to push north once more?
I think it likely we will be seeing the Majingilane with the Sparta pride more and more in the next few months. Now that the young lions of the pride are hunting effectively with the adults, the lionesses will most likely look to start mating again soon, and the Majingilane coalition will want to be there as soon as the females are ready. Within a few months I think it is likely that the Sparta pride will once again have tiny cubs among them, but it remains to be seen…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell