In 2010 the Majingilane coalition came roaring into the Sabi Sands. The Tsalala pride at the time had some young lions in it, still relatively dependent on the adult lionesses. These young lions would almost certainly have been killed by the marauding Majingilane had they been caught, and so in what has now become a legendary story, the original tailless female took the young lions away from the pride and raised them to full independence herself. She then rejoined the Tsalala pride. The four young lionesses in question formed what is now known as the Mhangeni Pride, themselves an ongoing saga.
Fast forward six years and it seems that history is repeating itself.
As most people will know, the new tailless female (daughter of the original tailless lioness) has taken the four young lions of the Tsalala pride eastwards in what can only be an attempt to keep them out of the clutches of the Matimba males, who arrived on Londolozi late last year. There they have remained, concentrating their movements around the big bend in the Sand River where it swings to the south, hunting buffalo with great success through the worst of the drought.
It is a fine line they are treading there though, as not only are the Matimba males to the west of them a threat, but the Birmingham coalition – to the north and east of them – as well. The Tsalala pride has already been run off a giraffe carcass by the Birmingham males, but as we understand it all members of the pride escaped safely. To the south the Matshipiri males have been spending most of their time with the Sparta pride, and although they have ventured onto Londolozi once or twice, as far as we know their movements northwards have not yet been far enough to threaten the five Tsalala lions.
Speculation is rife amongst the rangers and trackers as to what will happen over the next 12 months. I’m sure this has all been discussed before, but personally I feel that the young males (three of them) in the Tsalala pride will never rejoin the pride. They are turning three years old this year and should be more than capable of taking care of themselves. Upon their departure, I am fairly confident that the tailless female will rejoin her sister, and the sub-adult lioness will rejoin with her. This will bring the pride’s total strength to four lionesses. I exclude the current cubs as they are far too young and with far too uncertain a future to count as stable members of the pride.
Having said all this, the tailless female and her sister are 14 years old this year, very much senior age for lions, and whether they have even two years of life left in them is questionable. If anything were to happen to either of the two young lionesses (5 and 3 years old), the future of the pride would be in serious jeopardy.
The next 6-12 months are very likely going to determine once and for all whether the Tsalala pride lives or dies as an entity…