Two years ago, the roar of the Majingilane was a constant serenade on the night air of Londolozi. If you couldn’t hear them on at least five evenings a week, something was amiss. They were a constant presence, and the “Wow!” effect that guests got when viewing a dominant, full-maned male lion for the first time was something a ranger could almost guarantee during a three-day visit to Londolozi.
The Majingilane have been making life difficult for us during 2014. With their expansion into the west of the park and their acquisition of two new prides, they have been conspicuous by their absence, spending a lot of time with the Ximungwe and Ottawa prides, a bit of time with the Mhangeni pride, but largely leaving the Sparta and Tsalala prides to their own devices.
With over two-thirds of the Sabi Sand reserve to patrol, it is small wonder that we don’t see them that often anymore. They criss-cross our territory fairly regularly, but more often than not it is just their tracks we see, and their presence has long since vanished over our borders, moving through the darkest hours of the night. We may hear them roaring during late drinks around the fire, and by midnight they well be calling from the airstrip just behind camp, but by morning, as we set out full of hope to track them down, they have often moved right across and away from Londolozi.
Seeing a couple of them together has become a rarer privilege than it used to be, and seeing all four of the coalition assembled in one place in one mighty unit is something we may have the good fortune of viewing once a month if we are lucky. It does happen, and they are still the lords of the central and western Sabi Sand, but when will the hammer blow fall? The hammer-blow that will end their reign? The hammer-blow that will almost certainly be struck by a new coalition moving in to take over, like the Majingilane once did.
There are over 2000 lions in the Greater Kruger Park, and it is safe to assume that somewhere out there, in one of the prides, or even already roaming as a young coalition, is a group of males that will one day rise to ascendency in the Sabi Sands. Will the Majingilane be forced out entirely, or will they retreat westwards, like their predecessors the Mapogo did, and consolidate their territory out there?
Who will be the first to be killed, or will they simply give way before the onslaught of the new blood attempting to overthrow them? If one or more of them is to be killed, who will be the first to go? As cold-blooded as it sounds, the consensus amongst the ranging and tracking team here is that the Hip-Scar male will most likely be the first to go, as his injured ankle has seen him limping along for months, seldom looking in as good a condition as his coalition-mates.
The Dark-maned male, although presumed to be the dominant force in the coalition, was notably absent during the Majingilane’s fight with three intruders two years ago. Would he stand and fight, side by side with his brothers, or would he be among the first to back down?
There are a lot of questions here for which we have no sure answers. Every time we begin to view the Majingilane as a spent force, or at least a weakening one, they do something to show how wrong we are.
Do these look like spent lions to you?:
In the meantime, we watch and wait, and listen…
Through contact with the various other reserves in the park, we usually have a good idea just where the coalition are on any given day. If all four of them are accounted for and they are to the west of Londolozi, yet we hear the ominous roars of male lions in the night air, emanating from the direction of the Kruger Park, we – and the Majingilane – will know that trouble – and possibly their doom – is on the way…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell