The Matimba males, it seems, are here to stay.
Although pushed out of their northern territory by the Birmingham males, they have been fortunate in that right next door is a property that the Majingilane have vacated in a well-documented move to the west. The northern reaches of Londolozi have seen very little adult male lion movement over the past year. The Majingilane have moved through, but have invariarably not stayed long. The birmingham males have made brief forays in but have generally retreated back the way they have come. Now it seems that some more permanent settlers in the form of the Matimba males are taking up residence.
As fantastic as this is for the guests, rangers and trackers at Londolozi, it has far more serious implications for the area’s resident lions, the Tsalala pride.
As mentioned in recent posts, the young males of the Tsalala pride would be (are) in serious danger from the Matimba males, and it seems as though they are finally coming under the cosh, as the last week has seen the pride splitting up on more than one occasion. Tracks indicate pursuit by the Matimba males, but thankfully there have been no casualties, and as far as we know, no serious altercations. Yet.
Just over a week ago a bull hippo was killed by another male hippo not too far from camp, and the Tsalala Pride found the carcass during the evening, chasing off a number of hyenas to take control. That night in the small hours, drawn by the stench of the carrion, the Matimba males arrived on the scene, scattering the Tsalala pride as they commandeered the hippo carcass. The next morning the pride was found split in two; the two old lionesses and two young males in one group, and a second group of a young male, a young female and the 4-year old lioness. This latter group remained near the carcass, sneaking back to feed on it while the Matimba males lay resting a few hundred metres away. The next morning another split was discovered, with one of the young males from the second group now missing. Tracks of the Matimba males were everywhere. Tracks showed that the males had been running. We suspected the worst.
The young male would rejoin the pride three days later however, and they would almost be complete, but this time the older tailed lioness was missing.
She was discovered mating with the Hairy Belly Matimba male in the Manyelethi riverbed while the rest of the pride was a few kilometres upstream. Was she really attempting to mate, or was this, like the incident with the Sparta lioness and Styx males last Christmas, merely an attempt to distract the Matimba males and give her offspring a chance to move off to safety? I strongly suspect the latter; that it was/is more of a placatory act on her part.
It usually takes a little longer for a lioness to truly accept new males and attempt to mate for reproductive purposes. When lions are in a serious mating bout and the female is highly receptive, a pair will often mate every 15 minutes or so, sometimes less. In the case of the Tsalala lioness and Matimba male however, they would only copulate once every 30 minutes, if that. I suspect that the female may have been in a condition known as pseudo-oestrus, in which she attempts to retain amicable relationships with incoming males to prevent infanticide.
Whatever the case, the Tsalala young males are probably still too young to have a good chance of survival if on their own, and with the Matimba males further entrenching themselves in Tsalala territory, the outlook for them is currently bleak…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell