In 2008, the Tsalala pride were taken over by two of the by-now infamous Mapogo coalition. A young male in the pride at the time, the sole survivor from a litter of four, had no choice but to flee. Through a series of events, he would encounter, follow, and eventually be accepted by the Sparta Pride. This male was the Tsalala Young Male, or Solo to some.
Fast forward to 2015. The tables have turned, and it is now an exact reverse of the situation from seven years ago, in that it is the Tsalala pride that may now find themselves accepting a member of the Sparta pride!
On August 24th we ran a post on the Tsalala pride’s takedown of a huge buffalo bull in the Sand River. In this post we shared a photo showing a foreign male feeding with the pride, and we can officially reveal him as being one of the three Sparta Young males that have been chased out of the pride by a combination and succession of Styx, Fourways and Matshipiri males. The other two members of this Sparta trio have been spending time in the southern section of the reserve, staying in what is ostensibly a no-man’s land between the Fourways and Matshipri coalitions around our southern boundary and just beyond.
A few weeks ago (the night of July 16th I think), the three Sparta males were chased by the Majingilane, their fathers. Hearing roaring to the west of camp at dawn, we set out to discover the source, but instead found tracks of the Tsalala Pride, which we followed to where the pride was feeding on a large kudu bull they had brought down during the night. Roars of a male continued to come from the west, and a young Sparta male was eventually found in Otthawa, alone and vocalising for his companions. Later in the morning, ranger Tom Imrie, while moving in to observe vulture activity on the remains of the kudu, came across a second young Sparta male, also moving in to investigate the vultures. The young lion, realising there was nothing to be had at the carcass, continued down into the river, where the Tsalala Pride was now resting in the shade on a prominent sandbank.
Realising the pride was there, the young male approached very cautiously, moving towards where the Tailless lioness was snoozing. Although looking in his direction once or twice, she didn’t notice his approach at first. It was difficult for us to see from across the river where we were sitting, but we think a little mound in the sand prevented her seeing him, even though he was approaching in the open. Eventually, after he had approached to within about 15 metres, she realised he was there and sat up quickly. This is what happened next:
What seems likely is that the Tailless lioness, seeing an unknown male suddenly appearing right next to her, was hesitant to attack or run away until she assessed the threat level. Approaching him cautiously, she was submissive at first, but realising his own hesitation, she lashed out at 0:21 in the clip, maybe more as a tester than anything else. Hearing the noise, the rest of the pride woke from their slumbers, and the tailed lioness, being the mother of the young lions in the pride and therefore with more at stake, instantly went on the offensive. Seeing the pride bearing down on him at 0:29, the young male decides to flee, but in the bush, to run is to invite pursuit, and the Tailless female went after him.
He ran across the river and the pride settled back down to sleep. That, we thought, would be the end of it.
A week later however, and the young male had still not joined up with his coalition. Possibly he had and become separated again, but whatever the case, he was found wading across the Sand River by Melvin Sambo on July 27th, the same morning that was mentioned in a post on August 17th, and the same day on which the Majingilane chased the Matshipiri male. If you read that post, you will see that the male was possibly thought to be a member of the Mhangeni pride, who had also been separated from each other a day or two before. His skinny frame, proof of the lack of a good meal, made him appear smaller than he actually was. The morning after the Matshipiri/Majingilane confrontation, the young male was found again, this time with a number of cuts on his rump, so we believe he most likely had another run-in with the Majingilane.
On August the 2nd, the Tsalala pride brought down their buffalo. They had been feeding for an hour or so, and ranger Tom Imrie, tracker Jerry Hambana and their guests were enjoying the sighting, when from the reedbeds nearby emerged the young male. Desperately skinny still, he came in aggressively, charging right up to the carcass, and scattering the Tsalala Pride. Not attempting to attack the other lions, he was only attempting to get food. While the young lions ran, the adults stayed where they were, each determined to hang on to their respective portions of the kill. The sub-adult lioness was the last to return, taking over an hour to skulk back to the carcass.
The Sparta male stayed with the pride for the remainder of that day, and the two following days that they remained with the kill. Over the course of the next two weeks he would be seen moving in their wake, about 30m behind them. On the 17th August the pride killed a young hippo, only 200m from where they took down the buffalo, and again the Sparta male was allowed to feed with them. On 28th August (date unconfirmed) the pride was in the river opposite tree camp, with the Sparta male lying up nearby. A bit of aggression was shown by the Tailless female in the form of growling, but otherwise all was peaceful. When the pride stood up to leave, one of the Tsalala young males lagged behind. He turned towards the Sparta young male, who had also got up to follow, and the two rubbed noses. Final acceptance? Possibly…
Since that incident the Styx males have come roaring through, chasing the Tsalala pride and separating them once more. Yesterday evening only two of the females were found (adult tailed and 4-year old). We presume the others are fine, but with the 35mm of rain that we had, scents will have washed away, and it may be a couple of days before they reunite. of the Sparta young male, there has been no sign for a week, but he most likely left the area once the Styx males moved in. He is still out there, searching…
Will he reunite with the other two males from his coalition? Or will he be forced to join with the Tsalala pride? This will be a boost for them, not least because it will increase the number of young males from three to four, giving them a much better chance should they all make it through to independence.
Written, Photographed and Filmed by James Tyrrell, Londolozi Ranger.