Six different groups of male lions have been seen on the property in the last couple of months. And these are non-Majingilane males I’m talking about. With the dominant coalition spending the majority of their time in the park’s western reaches, their tenuous hold on their territory’s eastern limits grows ever weaker, and there are some rangers and trackers who believe they may have abandoned the Sparta pride entirely.
The Sparta pride was one of the first prides the Majingilane took over when they arrived in 2010, although it took them a number of months – almost a year in fact – to kill off their cubs and begin mating with the lionesses. In doing so, they eliminated every last link between the Mapogo and the pride. A male lion’s success can be measured by the number of his offspring that survive to reproduce, and in the current Sparta pride, there are four young lions that have a more-than-even chance of making it to adulthood and passing on their genes; one young lioness and three males. With the increasing encroachment of new coalitions into the area, and the Majingilane being conspicuous by their absence in Sparta territory, it seems likely that in the next while the young Sparta males will be driven off into the wilderness to fend for themselves.
Let’s look at who has been pushing into Majingilane territory:
Birmingham Males: 5 lions
A relatively new coalition to the area. Still probably too young to challenge the Majingilane, they have ventured on to Londolozi soil at least once, but were chased off ignominiously by the Majingilane on that occasion. They have been killing buffalo regularly in the north of the Sabi Sands, and over the next year are definitely a coalition to watch out for.
Matimba Males: 6 lions
These males rule the North-east of the Sabi Sands and even further north than that, right up through the Manyelethi Reserve. Although a large coalition, they are not often together. Three of them spend their time further north, two further south, and the sixth is reported to be spending time with a pride in the Kruger Park. Two of these males were seen crossing west into Londolozi along the Sand River about a month ago, scent marking as they went. The next morning their tracks cut back north and east towards their own territory. As there has been no really concerted effort to enter Londolozi, it is unlikely these males are looking to expand properly onto Majingilane territory
Fourways Males: 2 lions
A young coalition that has been seen once or twice around Londolozi’s southern areas. Around 4 or 5 years old. With only two lions to potentially face four Majingilane, it is unlikely that this coalition will represent any kind of a threat for now.
Styx Males: 2 lions
These young males, around 4 years old, who were in fact fathered by the Majingilane, have only been seen once or twice on Londolozi in the past couple of years. A run in between them and the Sparta pride resulted in the deaths of one of the young Sparta males earlier this year, but apart from that incident, their impact on the lion dynamics of Londolozi has been negligible.
Unknown Coalition: 6 lions
A coalition of six young males was seen crossing the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps around 10 days ago, heading north. The sighting was called in by one of the Londolozi bush banqueting team, and he reported that they had relatively straggly manes, which suggests young males. No rangers or trackers saw these lions, and in the morning their tracks had crossed east out of Londolozi towards Sithlawayise koppie. Threat level: Unknown
Unknown Coalition: 2 lions
These males were seen briefly this morning in the far south-east reaches of Londolozi. Life Sibuyi and Mike Sithole tracked them on foot and disturbed them where they were resting on the west bank of the Sand River. The lions ran east and swam across the river, looking back towards where we had arrived on the west bank. We were unable to get a good look at them or establish exactly who they were, but their nervous demeanour suggests they originated somewhere in the Kruger Park and are not used to people. Their tracks indicated that they came up from the south. It is of course possible that these were in fact the Fourways males mentioned above, but from the brief glimpse we had it didn’t look like it. One looked like he had a relatively dark mane.
Below are two maps which should help you get a better idea of the area we’re dealing with:
As one can see, the threats are all in the east by default, although if one reads the outlines of the various coalitions above, you will also notice that there does not appear to be a seriously imminent threat to the Majingilane’s rule. It seems that any time an incursion by a rival coalition occurs, the Majingilane are quick to band together and move east to repulse it, and so far no coalition that poses as a serious threat has made any kind of inroads into the area.
We have been discussing the downfall of the Majingilane for awhile now, but it seems unlikely to happen in the next six months at least. The first change I think we are likely to see is the composition of the Sparta pride. I think it’s probable that the young males will be driven off sooner rather than later by a new coalition, and the inevitable chipping away at the edges of the Majingilane territory will start from there.
Any comments or updates on the lion dynamics would be welcome.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell