Cubs. The bottom line when it comes to male lions. Without surviving offspring to pass on their genes, male lions cannot be considered successful. No matter how big the coalition, no matter how big their territory, no matter how many other lions they kill or buffalo they bring down, if a coalition of males or even a single male fails to reproduce and have those cubs survive to reproduce themselves, nature shall consider them a failure.
The Mapogo were the coalition that preceded the Majingilane. Notoriously violent male lions, their reign of terror lasted around six years as their legend spread, but when viewed objectively, they were rather unsuccessful according to the criterion above. In-fighting and the killing of litters that their coalition-mates fathered meant that when they were finally dethroned in 2012, there weren’t many offspring surviving that could still claim to be part of the Mapogo bloodline.
The four Mhangeni lionesses were sired by the Mapogo, and the combination of these genes as well as those of the Majingilane that fathered the current young lions in the pride could make for a formidable coalition in years to come.
Yet when we look at the current lion population in the Sabi Sands, nowhere else are the genes of the Mapogo prominent. As fathers, and therefore protectors, we have to look elsewhere for shining examples, and we need look no further than the Mapogos’ usurpers, the Majingilane.
At first count – and my maths is bad – I can think of at least 21 offspring currently alive and over two years old that this coalition has fathered. And this does not include cubs from the prides in the west that the Majingilane took over in the last year. The Styx males, at least one of the Fourways males (possibly both), four Tsalala offspring and the young lioness, four young lions in the Sparta pride and the nine Mhangeni sub-adults (although I have heard reports that this number may be down to eight now) are all Majingilane offspring that have a more-than-even chance at making it to maturity.
Among the younger lions, most notably Mhangeni and Tsalala, the young males are still most certainly not out of the woods, and the older Sparta young males are about to be kicked out of the territory for good. With about one out of every eight male cubs surviving to maturity, one can appreciate that not all of these males may make it to breeding age, but the Majingilane, in protecting the pride territories for as long as they have, have given them as good a chance as they could have.
The young lionesses, destined to stay with their prides, have a good chance of surviving to sexual maturity, and with eight of them potentially breeding within the next couple of years, the genes of the Majingilane seem to be on a firm wicket.
So on Father’s Day, even as the Majingilane themselves look to fade into oblivion over the next couple of years, we can still celebrate their legacy, and acknowledge the genetic success they seem destined to achieve.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell, Filmmaker and Writer