The Sparta pride made a welcome return to Londolozi, moving through the open woodland areas south and west of the Maxabene, before eventually settling near the Tugwaan riverbed, with one of the Matshipiri males in attendance. This morning they headed back towards the Sand River in the east, moving in company with their four cubs, back to the hunting grounds that saw them thriving through the worst of the drought.
As the dry conditions settled their grip on the Kruger National Park and surrounds, general game (impala, kudu, zebra, wildebeest etc) became particularly scarce, and the Sparta pride’s usual dry-season movements around the Sand River intensified and became highly localised. With so many herbivores focusing their own efforts on the riparian vegetation and access to water, it seems to have been only logical for the Sparta pride to set up camp in the area, and sightings maps over the last few months reveal limited movement away from the Sand River. Add to this the fact that the two older lionesses in the pride have been raising cubs, and the River has multiple den sites in which they could be stashed, and you have the quintessential lion environment during drought conditions.
Late rains did thankfully fall, and as most will know by now, the bush was once again transformed into the verdant green landscape we usually associate with this time of year. Although the grass cover itself was (is) not that substantial, the late burst in greenery did its bit to bring general game species flocking back into the area, and the marula crests around Londolozi are now teeming with animals.
This changing environment coincided wonderfully with both litters of Sparta cubs being at an age at which they could start being taken to kills, and the lionesses have been venturing further and further from the river on their hunting forays.
Not wanting to move too far north and potentially meet the Matimba coalition (who have regularly been moving further south under cover of darkness), the pride have been confining their movements on Londolozi to the area south of the Maxabene Riverbed, and we have enjoyed a couple of great sightings with the cubs, particularly one from just over a week ago in which Judas Ngomane and Lucien Beaumont tracked them to where they had taken down a large kudu bull.
As we move into winter and the real dry season sets in, it is most likely that the pride will continue to centre their movements around the Sand River to the east of us, and we may have to wait until the next proper rains before they began covering their old territory properly once again. By that time there may well be new additions to the pride, as reports indicate that the youngest lioness has been mating with the Matshipiri males. Whether or not she is too young to conceive remains to be seen…