Trying to understand lion dynamics in the central Sabi Sands at the moment is a bit like trying to understand quantum physics. Beyond the understanding of most people, and even for those in the know, most of it is still theory.
The last month or so has seen quite a few shifts and movements in the prides and coalitions on and around Londolozi. Even though we’ve long since given up trying to predict what will happen next, the sightings have been pretty incredible.
Following on from James Tyrrell’s blog a few days ago, the one shift that has surprised us all and raised many questions is the move of the Matimba males back north. We are not sure of the reason for their departure or if their return is ever going to happen. We do however know that they have left 5 young cubs with the two Tsalala lionesses without their fathers to protect them; what is to be the fate of these youngsters?
With the absence of the Matimbas, the Mhangeni breakaway lionesses have been spending time with the Matshipiri males, one or two of the females even mating with the coalition from the East. This unfortunately would mean that the two lionesses that had cubs sired by the Matimbas must have not made it. This would explain the two coming into oestrus quickly and wanting to mate with the dominant males who are now occupying the territory that the pride is frequenting. The Matshipiri males seem to be focussing their time more on the younger Mhangeni breakaway lionesses as opposed to the Sparta pride further south.
An interesting occurrence over the last couple of days is the speculation that the Tailless lioness from the Tsalala Breakaway pride has given birth to cubs. It has not been confirmed by anyone as of yet. What we do know is that she was looking heavily pregnant about a week ago when the pride was moving through our property. They made their way North of the Sand River and settled around a rocky outcrop where the Tailless female was seen resting on top of some boulders away from the other four lions of the pride. No one has seen her for about three days, so we cannot confirm if she is lactating and has given birth, but the signs are rather convincing. We certainly cannot assume anything; we shall just have to wait and see what the outcome is. A question that would arise if our speculation is correct though, is who are the fathers? She was seen mating with the Matimba males on our property a few months ago, but the pride has covered some serious distance over the last months, no doubt coming into contact with other coalitions. If she has given birth, how long will she tolerate the three young Tsalala breakaway males, who are now approaching that time in which they will be forced away from the pride and have to fend for themselves.
The Mhangeni pride and the Majingilane coalition haven’t been spending to much time on our property of late. It seems they are enjoying the safety of the area west of Londolozi away from the Matshipiri coalition.
The beauty of trying to follow the lion dynamics is that there is always the element of the unknown, we can speculate and hypothethise all we want, but there are certainly some questions that we may never be able to answer.