Lion dynamics tend to be forever unfolding at a daily rate at the best of times, and then suddenly halt in any change whatsoever. One would be incorrect in fearing that during such times of low lion activity there is not much going on- as in fact the low activity is a result of so much up for grabs indeed.
It is well known that the male lion movements and domination in the central Sabi Sands has been out of sync for more than a year now. The still mighty Majingilane coalition may be smartly keeping to their western sectors, leaving areas around Londolozi vacant for younger males to step in; too much greed could see them leaving other areas unoccupied (an alleged flaw of the previous Mapogo reign). Of the several newer coalitions to investigate the seemingly available territory, the Matimba males have showed signs of staying, and their continued presence is having more of a prolonged effect on the surrounding prides than initially expected.
Weeks have gone by since the Mhangeni Pride has been seen all together, and even longer so regarding the much smaller Sparta Pride. Although both prides have fast maturing males, with the latter’s having already left their family’s care, neither pride has remained safely together since the Matimba males’ abrupt arrival more than a month ago.
The movements of the centrally territorial Tsalala Pride has been the most intriguing, though. With young males to protect the seven members have been fleeing in both directions, but managing to remain together, kind of.
Exactly a month ago, the pride’s need to run from the new males was discussed while they temporarily split up and rejoined several times. Surprisingly, not much has changed in four weeks except that they have covered unprecedented distance. At the start of September, immediately after the Matimba males arrived, the Tsalala seven fled south. Deep south. Never before venturing too close to our southern boundary, in one night they vanished across it and further south-east towards to Kruger National Park itself. After spending a few days out of sight and miles out of their long-established territory they made the journey back, complete in one night. An estimated 35 km (20 miles) as the crow flies. As we were aware of their general position a great distance away, their sudden arrival back onto central Londolozi one late morning in September, in the blistering heat, was shocking. Under experienced guidance they had successfully avoided the Matimba males’ temporary tenure and were back home safely.
However, not less than two weeks later and the menacing males were back, prowling the central property and either side of the Sand River; the Tsalala Pride’s backyard. It was during this time that the fallen Hippo bull was found and again the big males caused a three-way split in the Tsalala Pride as everyone attempted to feed on the carcass at some stage. After too long remaining apart, the pride made their second journey away, out the reach of the Matimba males. But this time, north. One lioness even stayed behind in an act of protection, possibly using a state of pseudo-oestrus to keep the males’ attention away from trailing the rest of her family.
This was all discussed four weeks ago, and since then there has been no return as there was that one late morning in September. The pride of six have remained well north of our northern boundary and far out of our earshot, and although they have been very successful up there in terms of hunting, they are deep in to established territories of other powerful prides and could clash with any one any day now.
It is agreed that if the Matimba males do stay on site, there is no hope for the Tsalala young males to return anytime soon. However, this should not prevent the lionesses from returning home into their rightful territory in order to continue their pride’s existence and further their bloodline, possibly through the Matimba males. The journey back is not too far for them (as they have proved before) but it may need to be made by the females only, leaving behind the young males for good.
If the Matimba males fail to leave their new favourite area, it is only the three Tsalala females who can return and reunite with the fourth. The young males’ inevitable split may be imminent; it seems to be falling on the shoulders of the pride lionesses. This incredible pride has many times shown us great acts of survival and preservation, and we await their next move.
Watch this space…
Written and Photographed by Sean Cresswell, Londolozi Ranger.