When leopards get displaced by stronger individuals, we start seeing them popping up in areas we wouldn’t expect them. Old males that get ousted by younger challengers and young males that get pushed out by their fathers start to show a complete lack of pattern in their movements. Even females that are looking to set up territory far from their mother’s surprise us with their wanderings. The same can be said for male lions too, as young males and older coalitions whose tenure has come to an end start to be recorded as outliers on the map, as a life of non-territoriality starts to become the norm for them.
When dealing with lion prides themselves, it is not often that the females and their cubs get entirely displaced, yet it seems as if that is what has virtually happened to the Sparta pride.
The pride that once formed the mainstay of lion viewing on Londolozi has become but a shadow of their former selves; semi-nomads who appear at random on all points of the map, reduced to two adult females and their three cubs.
The last couple of years have been rocky for them to say the least. The Mantimahle coalition killed one of the male cubs of the pride recently, while one of the adult females was killed during a clash with the Ntsevu pride, just beyond Londolozi’s southern boundary.
To really get into the causes of their turbulent recent history, we have to go back in time to when the Majingilane left Londolozi and moved west. The Sparta pride were left alone, without a dominant coalition, and it wasn’t long before new males began moving in, with a succession of Styx, Fourways and then Matshipiri males all laying successive claims.
When the dust of the Majingilane’s departure finally settled, the Matimba males were in control in Londolozi’s northern reaches, where the Tsalala pride live, and the Sparta pride remained in the south, under the control of the new Matshipiri males, with whom they soon birthed cubs. Whereas the Majingilane had been dominant over both the Tsalala and Sparta prides simultaneously, allowing for a bit more freedom of movement of the two prides, the new situation of rival coalitions ruling over the respective groups of females created a buffer zone of sorts through central Londolozi, within which we didn’t often encounter lions, each pride choosing to remain in the safe area under their own coalition’s protections, unwilling to put their cubs at risk. This unused zone was where the Ntsevu pride began moving once they began looking to establish a territory for themselves, and after mating with both Matimba and Matshipiri coalitions, it seemed they had now firmly squeezed themselves into a significant portion of the Sparta pride’s old territory.
I know that’s difficult to follow, but the below map should help clear it up:
To sum up as concisely as humanly possible, the Ntsevu pride essentially moved into the no-man’s land between both prides during 2016, and being a bigger pride, forced the Sparta lionesses further south, killing one of them in the process.
Now we see the Ntsevu females roaming over the area in which the Sparta females spent the majority of their time. The Sparta pride, whilst popping up here and there on Londolozi, have for the most part been spending their time to the south and east of us, being seen on neighbouring reserves and even wandering into the Kruger National Park on occasion.
The Tsalala pride have fallen on hard times in their past, often being made up of only two females. Yet somehow they have managed to persist.
Can the Sparta pride do the same through this, probably the most vulnerable period they have faced in the last 20 years?