Followers of the Londolozi blog will have noticed a dearth in the posts about the once-mighty Sparta pride of late.
The pride, once numbering over 20 individuals, now consists of just three. A significant drop in numbers, you will agree.
It’s often a case of ebb and flow in the fortunes of lion prides, and in an open ecosystem like the Kruger Park/Sabi Sand, no event happens in isolation, especially when it comes to lion dynamics. There are always going to be knock-on effects and repercussions after any incident or development, and with the Sparta pride, it is no different.
The most significant point in the last few years for them was probably the death of the old lioness of 2013, a great huntress and a littermate of the now infamous Mapogo. After her death, the adult members of the pride were just three; two sisters and their cousin. They were raising cubs at the time (7 at the time of death of the old lioness, if my memory serves me correctly), and all of them were first-time mothers. Under the continued protection of the Majingilane coalition, the three females were – in relative terms – successful in raising the cubs, ending up with four of them still surviving into the early parts of 2015, all of them now at an age at which they could add serious value to the hunts, and effectively when the adult females would look to reproduce again.
At around this time, the Majingilane were vacating the eastern edges of their territory and consolidating their hold in the west, leaving the Sparta pride, and particularly its young males, vulnerable.
The way was open for intruders, and these came in swift succession in the form of the Styx, Fourways and Matshapiri coalitions. With the arrival of the Matimba males from the north, the Sparta pride has generally been sticking to the more central and south-eastern sections of their territory, avoiding the north western portion. Although the Matimba males currently move around a territory that is probably smaller than most leopards’ in the Sabi Sands (!), they still remain an unknown entity for the Sparta pride, and are probably best avoided for now.
What did happen with the arrival of all the new males was that the young Sparta males were forced to flee. Two are I believe still operating around the southern reaches of the Sabi Sands while the third has sought refuge with the Mhangeni pride. In an unusual turn of events the Mhangeni pride accepted him and he is now firmly ensconced within their ranks.
Meanwhile back on the home front of the Sparta pride, one of the adult lionesses died. The carcass of a lioness was found to the south of Londolozi, and with only two adults and the sub-adult female being seen over that period, we can only presume that the body belonged to that of the missing Sparta female.
That is the current state of the pride. Two adult females and a younger lioness of just over three years of age.
They seem to have found a certain amount of stability in the form of the Matshapiri males, with whom they have mated (only the two older lionesses) and might hopefully have cubs with within the next few months.
They also seem to have limited their movements to a much smaller section of the reserve than they would normally be found in, and their presence on Londolozi is a rare thing these days.
Lions come and lions go, but let’s hope that for what is probably Londolozi’s most iconic pride (they have been viewed here since the lodge began!), the current troubled waters they are negotiating will be the first step on the road back to their former glory.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell