As the nights lengthen and the temperature drops, there is nothing better than sitting around an African fire being serenaded by the calls of lions. Although there have been a number of different male lion coalitions providing these calls over the last few months, some new voices have entered the fray in the last two weeks. Who are these lions and what are their intentions here on Londolozi?
The group consists of two males and one female and were seen unashamedly calling and scent marking throughout the heart of Londolozi. They were a little skittish around vehicles, particularly during the day, and would flatten their ears, growl or flick their tails if vehicles got too close to them. Judging by the direction they had come from and their reaction to off-roading, we believed that these lions had come to Londolozi from Kruger.
After looking into it, we have been able to ascertain that this pride is called the Matshapiri Pride and comes from Skukuza in the Kruger. They are estimated to be about six years old and although their area of birth is not known they were first reported around Skukuza in 2014. Since early April this year, lodges in the Northern parts of the Sabi Sands (Nkorho, Umkumbe and Cheetah Plains) have reported seeing them and we know that they have also been seen calling and scent marking in Mala Mala and as far south as Sabi Sabi.
The movement of males like this is not unusual and is in fact incredibly important for the dispersal of genes. If male lions stayed in the area that they were born when they reached sexual maturity they would end up mating with their mothers and sisters and this sort of inbreeding would ultimately hinder the strength of the species. What is interesting however is that they have a female travelling with them. Typically males will leave their natal pride and establish a territory on their own before joining up and mating with females in that new area. Is she their sister or just a lone female that joined up with them at some point? Of this we are not sure and will probably not get an answer but we know that she has been with this coalition permanently since 2014 at least and has even been seen mating with one of the males.
What is also interesting, is the manner in which this pride has arrived. Where other male coalitions such as the Styx and Fourways males have tentatively entered Londolozi, this pride has certainly left their mark. They tend to move big distances, confidently roaring and scent marking all the way before looping back on themselves to the east. At one point they were most definitely in earshot of the Majingilane, who we had tracks of crossing back into Londolozi but from what we can tell they never actually met up. Did two of the Majingilane get scared off and move back west to call their brothers or did they just decide to let the matter lie? We are not sure but to this day we are still waiting on a response from the coalition of four to our west.
What we do know though is that it has certainly got the rangers and guests very excited as well as reminded us just how fantastic it is to work in such a large and wild area. It is a reminder of how important large expanses of wilderness such as the Greater Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park are, where lions and other animals can move like this, unhindered by human involvement. Where have these lions gone, will they be back again and are they the next pride to stir up the lion dynamics on Londolozi once again? It seems for now, all we can do is wait and see.
Have any of you ever seen this pride before and if so where? We would also love to hear about some of your favourite encounters with big male lions.