It has been a long time since the two Mathsipiri males were seen on Londolozi soil. Casting my mind back, the last time I saw them myself was probably August last year when one of them was chased for his life by the Majingilane coalition. It seems that they were happy to settle in the east after that, mating with the Sparta pride and avoiding the potential threat of the Majingilane, as well as the newly-arrived Matimba coalition.
These two males have since fathered cubs with the Sparta pride (two lionesses have birthed two cubs each) and the months of drought saw them spending the vast majority of their time in and around the Sand River to the east of Londolozi, hunting buffalo with great success.
Five days ago ranger Shaun D’Araujo and tracker Elmon Mhlongo were returning with their guests from the deep south of Londolozi when three lionesses emerged from the bush in front of them, crossing the road in their headlights. With hearts in their mouths, all on the vehicle watched as four very small shapes tumbled out of the thicket line and followed the adults across the beam and disappeared into the bushwillows on the other side. The Sparta pride had returned! The next day their tracks were in the area but heading back towards the river, possibly in an attempt to move the cubs away from the nomadic Talamati males, a group of three from a rival pride that have been pushed into independence and have been spending time in Londolozi’s deep south.
Then yesterday afternoon they were seen again by ranger Andrea Sithole as they crossed into Londolozi north of the Maxabene Riverbed, but only briefly.
Trackers Milton Khoza and Innocent Ngwenya along with rangers Melvin Sambo and Andrea Campbell set out to find the pride and their cubs this morning, but their tracking efforts were interrupted by the discovery of the two Matshipri males who had also come west during the night and were feeding on the carcass of a wildebeest. According to Andrea, the feeding behaviour was rather strange, as both males were feeding fast and looking nervous, despite there being very little meat left.
This seems to suggest that the kill was stolen and not made by them. The fact that the Matimba males were roaring across the river from camp this morning may also have put the Matshipiri males on the alert, as they are in territory they haven’t been in for months, and as far as I know have yet to encounter the Matimba coalition and are unaware of their strength or weakness.
Either way, once they had finished what meat remained, the Matshipri males began moving back east, and eventually settled near the Maxabene Riverbed. With general game flooding back onto the central parts of the reserve in droves since the breaking of the drought, hunting opportunities will be rife, and we hope these males and indeed the Sparta pride as well will be spending more time on their old hunting grounds.