It is safe to say that the lion dynamics on Londolozi and the surrounding reserves are swiftly changing. The territories are shifting and there is a heaviness, a cloud of uncertainty and unknown future for many of the prides and coalitions that we view each day. Change is in the air and it is coming fast. With the current coalition, the Majingilane males, still four males strong, having taken over much of the western section of the Sabi Sands, pushing out the Selati Males and taking over the prides in the west, it has left many of us uncertain about what may evolve and how the lion population may be affected.
There was a recent post by Andrea Campbell about an unexpected visit from the Styx pride in central Londolozi. They were deep within the territory of the Sparta pride and we foresaw a dramatic evening that could have unfolded. On the same evening, the Sparta pride were trailing a large herd of buffalo in our western grasslands, but they were moving east, directly toward the Styx Pride. Late this evening, the Sparta pride managed to kill a buffalo very close to where the Styx pride lay earlier that day, but there was no interaction with the prides. After an uneasy evening in camp we headed out in search of what we thought would be a battlefield. To our surprise, we found the Sparta pride resting, full bellied, healthy, without and signs of a fight and all the members were present. Later in the morning, a very strange development brought confusion to our team. A young male from the Fourways pride had chased the Sparta pride off their buffalo kill and lay proudly next to the carcass.
There is no better feeling then having an encounter with an unknown male lion. Where did he come from? How did he get here? What will this hold for the future?
The following morning, this male was nowhere to be seen and there were two Majingilane males feeding on the remains of the buffalo. What ensued that evening we will never know, but from the lion front all seems to be ok. Or so we thought…
During the evening, Tom Imrie and his tracker Jerry Hambana followed the Sparta pride into the deepest thickets around our Eastern boundary. They were moving swiftly, on a mission, noses to the wind and determined. What was to unfold, Tom never saw coming. They had moved directly into the oath of the Styx pride, who had been vocalising on the eastern boundary. Were they pushing for territory or trying to stay clear of the threat of the Matimba males from the north east? We are not sure, however, they had crossed the path of the Sparta pride and the two groups of lions entered into a roaring, fierce attack against one another. The Styx pride currently has three adult females, two young males, around four years old and three young cubs, possibly eight months old. The Sparta pride has three adult females, a 26 month old female and four young males between 26 and 28 months old. A fair fight one would think, and certainly leaning toward a victory of the Sparta.
The fight was not witnessed by onlookers as it was too dense an area to traverse, however, from the noises, roars and vicious commotion, Tom knew there had been a serious encounter.
We all woke with the intention of finding out exactly what happened and how this would affect our future lion viewing and the success of both prides. After a morning of tracking, up and down roads, back and forth, in and out of blocks, searching high and low, the Sparta pride was found, appearing defeated. Lying in a tight group licking their wounds from their encounter. We watched a lioness limping badly with large puncture wounds in her hind quarters, the other lionesses bearing gashes on their faces, lying cautiously and most likely reminiscing over the events that has taken place. After close inspection, we noticed the three young males, ever alert, calling softly. For what, at the time we did not know.
From that evening, until his day, there has been no sign of the Styx pride on Londolozi and from information we have gathered, one of the young males is badly injured, but will more than likely wear the scars of that night for many years. However, the Sparta pride were not so lucky. The healthy young coalition, fathered by the Majingilane, poised to become a serious threat to any coalition in the future, had lost a member. One of the young males is still missing and we fear the worst.
The pride is now viewed with the adult lionesses, a young female, and three young males. With the imminent dispersal of these young males in the near future, they are now in terrible position and down to three. Will they be able to succeed as a coalition in the future and how will their dispersal affect the future of the Sparta pride?
The images below are of the most recent sighting of the Sparta pride taken on 10 September 2014.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland