Having just returned from a two week break, I have spent the last week catching up with the lion dynamics at Londolozi and there certainly have been a few movements whilst I was away.
The Mhangeni breakaways have been spending a lot more time on our property over the past few weeks, slightly further south and east of their four mothers who are still frequenting their “normal” territory. This movement east has meant that they have been encountering the Matimba males much more frequently. With these more frequent encounters, it has meant that the three young males from the Mhangeni breakaway pride have been under pressure to leave the young females, as their presence is a direct threat to the Matimba’s reign. The young females seem to be getting used to the idea of the older dominant males, even having shared a few meals. There has even been mating between one or two of the females with the Matimba males — could there potentially be cubs on the horizon for this new breakaway pride, sired by the Matimbas? Only time will tell.
Another very interesting change is the presence of a young male on his own. It appears he is one of the young Talamati males who was separated from his brothers recently in a fight with the Charleston males. He has also been spending time with the breakaway pride and the Matimba males (who are his fathers and the only reason he hasn’t been driven off by them). Having said that though, he is still giving the group a wide berth, not really being fully accepted anywhere.
There was a very interesting interaction two days ago between the Mhangeni breakaways, the new young male, Matshipiri males and Matimba males. The six females from the Mhangeni breakaway pride had ventured very far south and east on our property with the two Matimba males, and the new young male tagging along at a distance. This was the first time either the pride or the coalition had ventured this far south and east. This meant that they were very close to the boundary of the Matshipiri males’ territory. They managed to make a kill and finish it off rather quickly between the nine of them. The Matimba males left the pride that night and moved further west to patrol their territory, whilst the females (and Talamti male) stayed for a few hours longer, sleeping off their rather large meal. When we managed to locate the pride on the morning game drive, they were slowly starting to head west again, back towards the heart of their usual territory. What they didn’t know though, was that the two Matshipiri males had picked up on their scent and were trailing them, rather quickly. At this point in the morning the two Matimba males had settled down quite a bit further west and had some shade that it seemed they were planning to spend the remainder of the day under. After about 20 minutes of trailing the pride the Matshipiri males caught up with them and mayhem ensued.
They ran into the pride with serious force, lions scattered everywhere. Luckily for the pride and young male, none of them were caught and all managed to escape unscathed. After a short while the Matshipiri’s decided they had enforced their dominance and decided to slowly head back east. Only five of the pride members managed to join up again, with one of the females and the young male finding themselves alone. We did find them later that afternoon, and both were untouched, but no doubt slightly rattled. At the time of all the commotion, the Matimba males heard the calling and growling and decided to investigate. They immediately got up and walked in the direction of the noise, calling every few minutes. They quickly picked up the scent of the Matshipiri males and started trailing them, calling all along. It seems the Matshipiri males must have felt slightly out of territory as they turned back east and swiftly returned. The Matimba males eventually caught sight of the two other males and chased them over our boundary with our neighbours and stopped in their tracks on the road — no doubt the territorial boundary between these two coalitions. Both coalitions then vocalised, announcing their territories, but not willing to venture over the imaginary line.
As of yesterday morning, the breakaways had rejoined the original Mhangeni pride, making them a pride of 22! Will this last or will they be forced to split once again? What does the movement of the Matimbas eastward mean for the Matshipiri males in the future? Could they be pushed further east, or will they put pressure back on the Matimbas? What is the future of the new young Talamati male? Will he re-find his brothers or will he continue to tag along with the pride. When will the Mhangeni young males eventually be forced to leave their sisters permanently and what direction will they choose to go?
We certainly cannot answer these questions now, but we do know that there are some exciting times ahead for the lion dynamics at Londolozi.