I don’t know how many of you have watched HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers, but there’s a line in one of the final episodes (near the end of the War) in which Sergeant Malarkey is talking to a new officer in the regiment about the fact that his unit has a roof over their heads, and says that at this stage of the war,”I don’t think anyone wants to do anything stupid, you know?”.
With everyone knowing that the end of hostilities is surely approaching, there’s really no need to go on the offensive. Survival is all that counts.
The Majingilane coalition appear to find themselves in a similar situation. Having been in residence in the Sabi Sand Reserve for more than 7 years now (first arriving in mid-2010), they surely can’t be more than a year from being overthrown. Mind you, I’ve said something similar many times before, yet they continue to persist.
And good for them.
You’ll read in many textbooks that male lions have an average tenure of two years over a territory, so an extra five for the Majingilane is an incredibly impressive feat. Bear in mind though that average tenure and what is normal can be two different things. You might get 10 coalitions holding territories for one year and ten holding territory for three years; the average occupancy would be two years, but not one of the coalitions actually held territory for that length of time.
Mathematics aside, to exist in an area with a healthy lion population and continue to ward off rivals for that long is something to be respected. Granted there were four Majingilane for a long time, and in what is essentially a numbers game, they have had the upper hand in almost every encounter, yet the number of male coalitions that have come and gone during their tenure is not insignificant.
Off the top of my head, the following males have been unable to unseat the Majingilane since their arrival:
There may be one or two more coalitions that I’ve forgotten, but those are the main ones. The dynamics rarely involved a simple head-to-head between the Majingilane and any of the above males but despite much prophesying over the years about their impending demise (mostly by me!), the Majingilane have outlasted or continue to outlast them all.
The Birmingham males are steadily encroaching into the grey area into which the Majingilane occasionally venture, and being a group of four magnificent lions in their prime, there is a serious chance that they may be the next big thing on Londolozi.
The bulk of the Majingilane’s movement these days involves trailing the Mhangeni pride at a distance, joining in the occasional hunt and feeding off any kills the pride makes.
Their silence has been notable though, and two nights ago, when we sat with them after dark, just south of the Londolozi camps, they simply got up and faded west into the night. No roaring, no scent-marking, nothing. Far from their normal area of occupation to the west of Londolozi, I imagine they thought it prudent to not draw too much attention to themselves.
As they age, we are almost always seeing them as a full complement of three if they do choose to venture this far east; as individuals they are far more likely to be picked off piecemeal by any stronger coalitions they may encounter. I may be giving the impression here that they are a short step from the end, but as the visuals in the video below show, they are still awesome specimens of lionhood:
Come what may, the time of the Majingilane at Londolozi and the Sabi Sand Reserve as a whole was not simply a few years in the careers of a few rangers and trackers. It has been an era. A common ground of magnificence between many guides and guests alike in this small corner of Africa.