The tracks of the Sparta pride crossed over the road in front of us. We were pretty far down in the South Western part of the reserve and with a guest particularly intent on seeing lion there was no doubt we were going to follow. Bennet and I set off on foot to establish the correct direction and once we were confident as to where they were going, I gave an update on the radio. To my absolute disappointment, Mark informed me that a set of pride tracks had been found much further North and East of our current position.
“Well, that’s not ideal” I responded very dejectedly. These lions had seemed to have walked an incredibly far loop, which is not unheard of but given the position of the tracks, it did seem strange. Off we set North East to the next set of tracks. It didn’t take us long to figure out that these new tracks were not the Sparta pride and we all assumed that we were now following the tracks of the Munghen Pride. We came across a dried pool of blood and few remains of an impala kill and as the sun was already well up in the sky we knew the animals could not be far! With Bennet and Elmon on foot, I decided to do a little loop and assess whether the lions had crossed over into the next block of land. As we rounded the corner a lioness was walking towards the rest of the pride. Adrenaline spiked. However, as we got closer the realisation sunk into my head that I had in fact never seen this pride of lion before. With two beautiful sub-adult males, four females and three youngsters it was Bennet’s knowledgeable call that told me this was the Styx Pride. With that the next question was what on earth were they doing this far South?
The Styx pride occupies the North Eastern part of the Sabi Sands and rarely makes their way onto Londolozi property and the occasional visit from them usually only takes place in our northern section. After chats with friends further afield we have come to understand that the three cubs have been fathered by a male lion who occupies territory much further north in the Sabi Sand reserve and is known as the Nkuhuma male. Because of this, the Majingilane males have been giving the Styx pride a rather tough time. Too add to this, the Matimba coalition which also moves around in the Northern parts of the reserve have been chasing the sub-adult males of the Styx pride as they are the sons of the Magilane. This is starting to sound as complicated as a soap opera plot. Needless to say, the poor females have been running all over the place trying to keep their youngsters out of the paws and claws of this current lion dynamic and this is how they ended up too far south on our property. By the next day they had crossed back east and our brief but exciting visit from the Styx Pride was over.
A sighting like this reiterates not only the beauty but the importance of these properties being unfenced to one another. The excitement of tracking and then finding pride of lion that I have never seen before is too much to convey, but more importantly the fact that these animals actually have the space to disperse ensures enough genetic diversity for the proliferation of that species as well as natural movement . As the Majingilane males continue to expand their territory, leaving gaps for other males to start moving in, I think we are in for some more very interesting lion activity in the months to come.
Written and photographed by: Andrea Campbell