The Tsalala pride and their two new cubs have featured prominently over the past few weeks on the blog. It got me thinking about how much has changed over the years with this pride and what a fascinating and unusual story it has been. Having arrived as a new ranger in January 2009, the pride consisted of the original Tailless Female and her two daughters, overseen at that time by the relative stability of two of the Mapogo Coalition. The Tsalala Young Male was also in the picture, having been forced to flee by the Mapogo and join the Sparta Pride. I spent many drives in my first months as a ranger circling Ximpalapala Koppie in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the cubs that were denning there, four of which were to ultimately become the Mhangeni Pride.
Over the interceding seven years they have gone through the split of the pride, giving rise to the creation of the Mhangeni Pride, a takeover by the Majingilane, then another by the Matimba Males, the loss of the original Tailless Female and “creation” of another. Along with this has been the birth, death and successful raising of many litters of cubs. The pride is currently split once again, as is the Mhangeni Pride, giving rise to the possibility that the three lioness I first encountered in 2009 may ultimately be the forebears to four different lion prides in the Sabi Sand. Whatever the outcome, the story of the Tsalala Pride remains as remarkable as ever…
May 2009: My first sighting of the 2009 litter of cubs, perched atop Southern Cross Koppie at last light.
Aug 2009: The original Tailless Female and her two daughters, pictured here in 2009 with one of the Mapogo Males, known as the Kinky Tail male.
By July 2010, the Tsalala Young Male had turned into an impressive specimen. However, without the support of a strong coalition, he was unable to cement a place due to the other dominant males in the area.
By mid 2010 the Majingilane Males had begun to move in, causing havoc and splitting the pride in two.
Aug 2011: Once relative stability had been restored, the two lionesses who remained behind after the split soon gave birth to cubs fathered by the new coalition.
Ximpalampala Koppie, May 2011: The sight I had searched for numerous times in 2009 finally materialised in 2011 – the pride on the rocks of Ximpalapala Koppie in morning light.
Sept 2011: Soaking wet after crossing the sand river, one of the cubs from 2011 calls out for its mother.
Tailless 2012 – as if one tailless female wasn’t unusual enough, a second female was rendered tailless in 2012 after an overnight encounter with hyenas trying to steal the pride’s zebra kill.
The relatively peaceful takeover by the Matimba Males has seen the next generation of the Tsalala Pride – here the two newest additions peer out of the den amongst the rocks of the Manyalethi River.
One of the new cubs relaxes whilst the females feed nearby on a recently killed kudu bull close to the Londolozi camps.
Relaxing in the sand river in anticipation of nightfall.
Don Heyneke and his guest photograph the pride in the Sand River as the last rays of light filter through the approaching clouds.