The Mhangeni pride are not what they once were.
The younger members of the pride are essentially doing what their mothers did once upon a time, breaking off and operating independently. For different reasons, mind you, but basically operating as a separate entity.
One of the main reasons is that the adult females have been looking to reproduce once more. At least one female has two young cubs of just over three months that she has been denning in or near the Sand River, and latest reports indicate that another female has been seen lactating, so is also stashing young cubs somewhere. A third looks heavily pregnant.
Last night three of the adult females and two cubs were found near Taylor’s Crossing, right on Londolozi’s western boundary. This morning tracks of at least two lionesses were found on Londolozi, having seemingly been hunting in the grasslands, but then disappeared over the western boundary.
The interesting development was last night’s movement of the Matimba males.
At around 18:30 we left the dark-maned Matimba male heading east from Plaque Clearing, at the red dot on the map. His brother had been seen in the morning on the opposite side of the river to him.
This morning at 04:30, loud roars of both the males reverberated through the camp, waking most people from their slumbers I imagine. They were roaring from directly in front of Granite Camp, from around the blue dot on the map.
By 06:15, ranger Chris Goodman and tracker Jerry Hambana had found them at the pink dot, very close to where the Mhangeni females were last night.
Before too long, the males were on the scent of the lionesses, following with clear intent. When they heard one of the lionesses roaring further west, the pace picked up considerably, and they broke into a determined trot.
Remember, the cubs of the Mhangeni lionesses were sired by the Majingilane coalition, and would therefore almost certainly be killed by the Matimba males if they were caught.
Thankfully, it seems as if the lioness with the two cubs had already got them safely to a den site on the north bank of the Sand River, and the lioness that was roaring was one of the two who had been hunting on Londolozi, who didn’t have any cubs with her at the time.
The Matimba males eventually sighted the lionesses in the distance and launched into the chase, foregoing the chance to hunt buffalo in an open clearing, bypassing them in pursuit of the females.
They had run through a very rocky area where the vehicles could not follow at speed, and by the time Chris had driven around to where they had last seen the males disappearing, they had only a line of tracks to go on, superimposed on the tracks of lionesses moving at speed.
Eventually it seems as though the Matimbas lost interest in the chase, as they were found soon after, resting in a thick block with no females in sight. Since it wasn’t a rival male they had been chasing, it is possible it was more out of curiosity that they pursued the lionesses, maybe in an attempt to size up the mating potential.
With the Mhangeni pride regularly appearing in the western sections of Londolozi, they are potentially going to be coming into contact with the Matimba males more frequently, which, if they are to ensure the safety of their cubs, is something they will need to try and avoid. Over the last few weeks we have seen the Matimba coalition expanding their normal areas of movement, and if they sense the incursion of a new pride with potential mates, they would be remiss not to try and take advantage of such an opportunity…