As a ranger at Londolozi, we often get asked quite a wide variety of questions on various different aspects of this beautiful area of vast wilderness.
For many centuries regarded as the king of the beasts and/ or jungle, lions are the epitome of strength and power! They walk over the vast landscapes of Londolozi with a certain arrogance that can only be described as magical. Hearing or seeing a lion roar is an indescribable feeling that will leave you feeling humbled and minuscule…
It is an experience that one needs to be a part of to fully comprehend the grandeur of…If you don’t believe me than simply take a look at this video:
Today we are going to discuss three of the most commonly asked questions regarding the apex land predator at Londolozi; the lion. Below is the first of our Q&A series, let us know what you think:
Q & A
Why do the lions sleep the whole time?
Conserving energy! Everything in nature or life for that matter requires energy in order to sustain itself. Lions are territorial cats. This means that they constantly need to mark their territory by leaving olfactory signals in their territories. This will keep intruders out of their territories. They do this by rubbing glands in their faces against low hanging branches or by urinating in specific areas. History also tells us that lions at Londolozi hunt larger animals such as giraffe, buffalo and blue wildebeest. In order to hunt and kill an animal like this requires a tremendous amount of energy and if you take into account that lions fail about 60% of the time when hunting, we can just imagine how many calories they burn on a daily basis.
A couple of weeks ago, late the afternoon we found the Mangheni pride in the Northern part of Londolozi. They were sleeping, essentially in a state of comatose…
All of a sudden two of them got up and ran away from view; we followed them into the bush as fast as we could and found the two on top of a young giraffe! Within seconds the rest of the pride arrived and brought down the giraffe and killed it right in front of us. It was probably one of the best sightings I have ever had in my life. One can just imagine how much energy it requires to move that fast, kill and then consume something the size of a giraffe!
This experience taught me one thing; when it comes to lions, be patient. You never knows what might happen.
Where are the male lions?
Most likely with another pride… We have been led to believe that a pride of lions is dominated by one male lion. This is a total fallacy. Male lions form what is called a coalition, anything from two to six lions and they will be dominant over as many prides of females as they can be. At Londolozi, for the past four years the dominant males have been the four Majingilane lions. Their predecessors were the five Mapogo lions. By forming a coalition like this, males heighten their chances of killing more prey and winning fights against rival male lions and thereby increasing their own lifespan considerably.
The Majingilane lions hold a massive territory in the whole of the Sabi Sands and are dominant over at least four prides. When these lions make their appearance at Londolozi it is a spectacle second to none. One cold, misty morning a couple of weeks ago, we heard lions roaring in the northern section of the reserve. My tracker and I decided to drive to the area and try and track these lions. We know they can move considerable distances and we had to hurry to get there in time to avoid a major disappointment! We caught a glimpse of one male lion that starting roaring to call to the other members of the coalition. As we drove up to the one male, we found ourselves in the middle of four male lions roaring to announce their territory. We could actually feel the vibration of the sound in the vehicle and everyone on the vehicle, including myself had goosebumps! It was a once in a lifetime occurrence that I wish everyone could experience.
How old is that lion?
Out of all the questions a guide gets asked, the age of an animal is probably the most frequently asked question. It is almost impossible to give a 100% accurate answer, but we try our absolute best!
We use quite a few key features. We use body size, nose colour, mane size and coat condition to age a lion. There is great variation, and so we need to consider several features to estimate age correctly. A lion with a pink nose is usually younger than three years old. A larger mane usually means an older lion. But these are just guidelines. Nothing is set in stone. We have recently had an influx of male lions into Londolozi because of the Majingilane lions that aren’t always around. There are two coalitions, the Styx males and the Fourways males who have started marking areas around the South Eastern section of Londolozi. These male lions are approximately four to five years old (if you look at their manes) you can see it’s not fully developed yet. Female lions are even tougher than males. Females that are quite old usually have a broader head than younger lions and their ears are torn.
If you are patient and lucky enough you might get to see a yawn, which will reveal that older lions have yellowish teeth. Younger ones have whiter teeth.
As a ranger, I absolutely love the questions that I get asked by guests. These questions are essential for one to understand the whole experience and the full circle of life in the bush. For some guests, even the simplest question can unravel a sophisticated or complex situation! On your next visit to to the reserve don’t be scared to ask a question. All the rangers will be more than willing to answer it, however simple or silly you might think it is. Like the old saying goes: “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”
Written by Werner Breedt, Londolozi Ranger
Do you have any questions on lions that you’d like us to answer? If so, leave your question in the comments below and we will make sure to answer it!