With the arrival of the Matimba males to Londolozi, the Tsalala pride has found itself in a state of turmoil. As is true of all cats, a male will attempt to kill cubs that are not his own, forcing the female back into oestrus, giving him the opportunity to sire his own young. The Tsalala youngsters are of a vulnerable age and if the males were to get hold of them, they would in all likelihood kill these youngsters who were fathered by the Majingilane. This would be a huge loss to the pride that has invested so much time and energy into raising these cubs. So what is it that the lionesses do to try and protect them?
One of the tactics used by lionesses is distraction and she will mate with the males to keep them occupied for a few days, giving the pride a chance to get away. This is something we have been seeing the Tsalala lionesses doing on several occasions with either the older tailed or younger tailed lioness mating with the males while the tailless lioness takes the youngsters to safety. What is amazing however, is that it is believed that lionesses are actually able to go into a state of false oestrus during this time period. This means that she can mate but will not conceive. This is hugely important, as females need a four to six month time frame, in which to suss out the new males and ensure that they are in fact strong enough to hold the territory. Only once she is sure of this stability will she conceive.
During the mating period, both the male and female can initiate but in the clip below, you will see how the female quite frantically attempts to entice the male. The reason for this was that the males had found the whole pride together and she was trying to distract them as the youngsters headed north. She would run backwards and forwards in front of the male, loudly throw herself on the ground, scratching at debris around her before bounding in front of the male again, encouraging him to follow her.
Although this is proving to be a very difficult time for the pride, these sociable cats continue to use teamwork to their advantage and as the males focus their time in the immediate surrounds of the camp, the Tsalalas move further afield. We watch with baited breath to see what will come of the pride in the coming months and look forward to keeping you posted.
Written, photographed and filmed by Amy Attenborough