What is the true test of a pride’s success? Is it the quality of their hunting prowess, the size of their territory or where that territory lies? Is it how many buffalo they are able to kill or who sires their young? Although these are all highly important factors, I think one of the greatest tests must be how many cubs a pride is able to raise to independence. It is only with the addition of the younger generation that the core natal group of females can grow in strength and the genetics of the pride can be carried further afield by independent roaming males. As the four Tsalala youngsters approach two years of age, can we start to say that the newest litter of cubs have been successful or is it still too soon to tell?
The first two years of these lions’ lives have been far from easy and yet it seems they are stronger for it. Looking back at photographs of them from about a year and a half ago, they were looking rather scruffy and malnourished. Their mother would sometimes leave them unattended for up to two days at a time and for the first few months of their lives, they were much smaller in size than their age would suggest.
Looking at these young, robust males now, you would never say that they had a rather difficult start in life. The size of their tracks often has us second-guessing ourselves, wondering if bigger, adult males are on the property. Although their playful antics remain the same and they are often seen lazily lagging behind the rest of the pride, there has been a shift in their demeanor from when I started seeing these youngsters just under a year ago.
Having said all of this, they certainly are not out of danger just yet. With their fathers, the Majingilane, continuing to stay west of Londolozi, the Tsalala pride is left with little protection from various newcomers to the area. With bigger and older coalitions such as the Birmingham males, Matshapiri pride, Styx and even the slightly older Sparta youngsters being around, the future is uncertain for these three young males.
Have a look at the incredible footage below of the Tsalala pride attempting to catch a buffalo in the river very recently. You can see that the females are doing all the work, risking everything in order to catch the meal with very little to no help from the young males. Although it is a process and a continuous learning curve, it seems these young lions will have to learn fast over the next year as their period of independence swiftly approaches.
The next while will in all likelihood be tough for them and as they mature into physically stronger male lions, it will be interesting to see if they can also grow into a more active playing, mature role within the pride. We watch with bated breath as to how they will fair in the near future.
What are your thoughts and how do you think these youngsters will do over the next few years?
Written by Amy Attenborough, Londolozi Ranger
Filmed by Sergey Gorshkov, Londolozi Guest, and Byron Serrao, Londolozi Ranger.