I quote Merle Shain as this is the epitome of life in the African bush among predators and as I addressed in last week’s TWIP, there have been a lot of changes in the predator dynamics at Londolozi. We are unsure as to whether the last of the Mashaba female’s cubs is still alive (outlook is bleak), the Nhlanguleni female shows signs of lactation and suckle marks; where is she keeping her cubs and how many does she have? Will these cubs make it to adulthood? Who will take over the deceased Piva male’s territory for good? Will it be the Inyathini Male or the Flat Rock male, or will there be an appearance from a new male leopard looking at establishing an altogether new territory for himself?
The most significant development that came about this week was the re-joining of one of the Tsalala cubs with the pride as well as the interesting, possible rekindled bond between two lioness sisters.
A few weeks ago the Tsalala pride was in a squabble with other lions (presumed Majingilane) and the younger adult lioness and one young female cub have not been seen since. Their fate becomes inevitable.
For some time the older tailed Tsalala lioness has been roaming Londolozi and its northern parts with 4 youngsters (2 older females, 1 older male and 1 younger male). While in a sighting of the Nanga female leopard in the north eastern parts of Marthly, the scene suddenly changed as the older Tsalala female appeared from a thicket, trailed by two cubs (two older females). The Nanga female sensed their presence before we even knew they were there and she took off in the opposite direction. All three lions looked well fed, blood on their faces indicative of them having recently made a kill. But there were only three in total. Where were the other two cubs?
Lions calling in the northern areas suggested they may have been interrupted by another pride getting wind of the kill they had been feeding on and rushed in to investigate, only once again to have a fight break out, steal the remains of their kill and possibly killed or at best, chased two of the cubs away while the others fled with the adult lioness.
The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.
Days went by with no sign, until one afternoon drive, trackers and rangers spotted a single male lion cub hobbling around a rocky outcrop in the Manyelethi River, a place he was familiar with, the place he was born. His condition was bad. He had clearly been in a fight with other lions. My theory mentioned above became more relevant and the possibility of the others being killed seemed quite likely. A further few days passed and there was no further sign of the male cub. Would he find the rest of the pride? His survival chances if he remained by himself were scant.
During this time we witnessed interesting behaviour of the adult Tsalala female; she was always seen in the presence of her Tailless sister from the Tsalala breakaway pride, yet getting too close to one another resulted in snarls. The younger adult female of the breakaway pride seemed most unhappy with the new presence of her mother. The Tsalala breakaway pride too had their share of difficulties with the recent loss of one of their 8 month old cubs – again possibly due to other lions.
Over the next few drives it became a regular occurrence seeing the Tsalala Breakaways in the company of the older Tsalala female meters away. Was she attempting to rekindle the bond? Was she showing interest in joining forces and regrouping once again? This was all new for me as my time at Londolozi began with the already current separation of the two sisters – the Tsalala and Tsalala breakaway prides. So many questions have been going through the minds of many rangers and trackers. The separation of the two sisters occurred when the Matimba male lion coalition broke them apart. The recent cubs of the Tsalala pride were fathered by the Matimba coalition and now the young 8 month old cub of the Tsalala breakaway pride was suspected to be fathered by the Majingilane coalition, but on this last point we don’t know for sure.
If these two prides were to re-join, what dynamics will pan out with the Majingilane males? Will they kill the Tsalala cubs or will the pride split once more? Every question begs five more.
An early morning drive on a cool rainy morning recently saw us cross the Sand River and explore the north of Londolozi in search of any sign of lions. The soil was damp and provided the perfect canvas for tracking animals that had moved through the night.
Tracker Bennet Mathonsi and I saw tracks of an adult female on Ximpalapala crest but no cub tracks. A few meters later there were signs of cub movements and a few hundred meters later there lay not two but three Tsalala lion cubs. The young male had re-joined and his condition had improved. Their bellies were full and blood on their faces proved they had fed during the night. Reports from other rangers who had found the Tsalala breakaway pride with older Tsalala female meters away mentioned how they too had blood on their faces that morning. Had these two prides fed on the same kill in the night? Were they rekindling their bond and would they re-join to form a single pride? Only anxious times lie ahead and we eagerly await what happens next and what each game drive holds.