The carcass of the old Tailed lioness was discovered yesterday afternoon by Londolozi rangers out on a bush walk, just below Ximpalapala crest.
The size of the skull and her weathered teeth were conclusive in the identification of the carcass. It could be no other lion.
To the west of her final resting place lies Ximpalapala Koppie, a rocky outcrop from which this lioness must have gazed out hundreds of times and a place where she has stashed multiple litters of cubs over her 15 years of life.
Just over the hill to the north-east you get to the Manyelethi River, a winding, sandy riverbed that has been dry for the last few years, but along whose course this lioness has also denned cubs, and wandered time without count under the giant Jackalberry trees whose spreading boughs and thick trunks line its banks.
And only a kilometre to the south flows the Sand River, the most prominent feature throughout the whole of this old lioness’ life. She waded across its channels, basked in the sun on its boulders on cold winter mornings, and slept in the shade amid its innumerable date palm thickets. For most of her life she would have done this in company with her sister, the Tailless female, but now, finally, we can confirm that this iconic duo is officially no more.
Just after we ran a post announcing that she was nearing the end, she received an unexpected windfall in the form of an elephant carcass to the south of Ximpalapala koppie. A young elephant had died of natural causes, and that carrion was able to sustain the lioness for just a little while longer. She was seen feeding off it on a number of occasions, too weak to show any aggression towards the hyenas that swarmed over the scene. They in turn, left her alone, although it wouldn’t have taken much for them to move in and finish her off. The heartache was that her sister and the rest of her pride were at the carcass at the same time. There had to be recognition between the two old females, but as the old Tailed lioness was clearly no longer a valuable member of the group, and could no longer keep up, the pride eventually moved off, simply leaving her to try and eke out a bit more of an existence.
We do not know what the exact fate of the lioness was or what the final date of her death was. Maybe hyenas did finish her off, or maybe she simply put her head down and slipped away into unconsciousness for the last time.
Whichever the case, there is some consolation in having found her last resting place, in the middle of the area she once roamed as an iconic lioness of Londolozi.