This is turning out to be a very interesting year for Londolozi’s lion population. It was always going to be so with an extra pride thrown into the mix, and the thirteen Mhangeni lions have certainly spiced things up.
Over the last few years the movements of the Sparta and Tsalala prides have been, if not predictable, then at least confined to relatively defined territories. These days, however, the Sparta pride in particular has been popping up in the most unexpected places, and the Mhangeni females have been moving their cubs steadily west, establishing what we are sure is going to be a permanent territory in western Londolozi.
The Mhangeni pride is an incredible success story in itself. Let us not forget that the four young lionesses that lead the pride were in danger of being killed by the Majingilane when the coalition first arrived on the scene, yet four years later they have borne cubs by those same males. Not only have they borne cubs by them, but they have done an amazing job at raising them, getting nine out of ten through to almost a year of age. With on average 60% of cubs not making it through to a year, a 90% success rate (so far) is an admirable feat, especially considering that this is practically the first attempt these lionesses have made at raising litters.
Until recently, finding the pride was always a nervous ordeal to go through, as the feeling amongst the rangers was that this situation was too good to be true. Nine cubs alive and thriving? Every time the pride was tracked down, the ranger and tracker who found them would find themselves doing a quick headcount to make sure all cubs were present and correct. And each time they were. And continue to be.
Will it last? Who knows. What we do know is that the Majingilane seem to be spending far more time with them, or at least in their territory, at the moment than they do with the two other prides they are dominant over.
Roaring during the night comes consistently from the north or west. Recent reports are that the Majingilane have once again been in pursuit of the Selati males, and even mating with lionesses from the Otthawa pride. This is a name that is probably unfamiliar with readers of the Londolozi blog, which just goes to show how the Majingilane have been expanding their borders of late.
It is a fascinating saga. Just when we were thinking the Majingilane were being forced to consolidate territory, they surprise us all by pushing further and further west. With new males (the Sand River coaltion mainly) to the south, the large Matimba coalition to the north, and goodness-knows-who to the east in the Kruger Park, pushing west into the younger and likely weaker Selati males’ territory would certainly seem like the wisest option, even though this move has most likely been necessitated by the Mhangeni lionesses establishing territory in the middle ground between the two coalitions.
It is unpredictable, raw, and real. It is unscripted, even though at times it reads like a Hollywood movie. It has us all on the edge of our seats on a daily basis.
Keep checking in for updates. It’s as exciting to give them as I’m sure it can be to receive them…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell