Trouble is brewing in eastern Londolozi. Whilst over the past few months the Styx males looked set to inherit the kingdom from their fathers, there is a new threat pressing in from the south.
Looking back to December, although a few coalitions had been seen making incursions onto Londolozi soil, none of them apart from the Styx males had had any interaction with the local prides (at least not that we knew of). Now all of a sudden, the coalition of two Fourways males has been pressing further and further north, and the Sparta pride is fragmented and in disarray as a result. What adds spice to the mix is the fact that the Fourways duo are apparently the first cubs sired by the Majingilane.
The conflict we have been predicting for a year now, ever since the Majingilane started vacating the area, is starting to materialise, as the vacuum left by the all-powerful coalition of four starts to fill in.
Last week, on the first truly winter-like day of the year (clear, crisp morning, golden light), the roars of at least six different individuals or groups of lions were heard reverberating through the still air. We had been heading out to look for leopards but the vocalisations of multiple lions had us unanimously deciding to change our plans.
First to be found were the Fourways coalition, tracked down by Lucien Beaumont, moving south from where the Styx males had been seen the previous evening. We found the adult Sparta lionesses next, and within minutes they had met up with the Styx males themselves. More roaring came from the deep south, north east and the far north east, from unknown coalitions or prides. With the Majingilane having been absent for so long, I can’t begin to describe the thrill it is to once more have lions roaring regularly on the property.
There was some mating between one of the Sparta females and the Styx males, but the real action came when Simon Smit was seeing if he could re-find the Fourways males a half hour later, and rounded a corner to see them charging across a clearing in pursuit of one of the young Sparta males, separated from the pride and now running for his life. The Fourways coalition failed to catch him luckily, and settled down to sleep for the morning.
Then two days ago the Styx males were very close to the Sand River. They were much further north and west than they have been before, and made contact with the young Tsalala lioness, but apparently both parties were very confused by the encounter. The Tsalala lioness ran back north across the river and the Styx males simply stared after her, contact calling.
This morning two of the young Sparta males were found on the Londolozi airstrip. The Styx males were again with some of the adult Sparta lionesses, and the Fourways males were nearby, although Werner Breedt reported that when the Styx coalition hove into view of the Fourways males, the Fourways lions fled immediately. This, despite being over half a year older than the Styx males.
Confidence is a huge factor when it comes to an encounter between male lions. Knowing they are new to the area could have led the older Fourways males into being a bit reluctant to enter into an aggressive encounter with an as-yet unknown adversary in the form of the Styx pair.
I know a lot of this is difficult to follow, but that to me is the real fascination of the whole thing. The unknown. The fact that we have no control over any of it. The fact that all we can do is wait and see what happens.
Essentially what we have here is a prime territory, recently vacated by a large coalition, with two coalitionss of their sons vying for control, forcing out another coalition of sons. And that’s the simplified version!
What of the Matimba males to the north or the Sand River males to the south? Another big question mark.
The stage is set.
I think this winter is going to be nothing short of phenomenal in terms of lion viewing!
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell