Over a year ago, the two huge Matimba male lions simply packed up and left.
Reports filtered in of them heading north, back to their old stomping grounds. Then nothing was seen of them. Then more reports of them popping up to the south. Without any consistent movement being recorded, and with only third-hand information reaching us, they quickly became a thing of the past, especially as the arrival of the Birmingham males took over the coalition headlines.
But now it seems, history has repeated itself, and the Matimba males have once gain moved into a territory recently vacated by the Majingilane.
Eastern and north Londolozi were left vacant when that amazing coalition (tribute to them coming soon) moved westwards in the Sabi Sand, and the Matimba pair, recently deposed from the northern sector of the reserve, simply moved in to fill the vacuum. This unexpected windfall came at just the right time for them, and it wasn’t long before they began mating with the Tsalala Pride, producing a number of cubs. Only one Tsalala cub is still alive, but truth be told, we can’t be sure who the father actually was, as both Matimba and Majingilane were possible suspects.
Anyway, the Matimba males were in residence for just over a year before they simply decided to leave. It was a fair number of months before the Birmingham males began making their presence properly felt, so it didn’t seem to us that they were the immediate cause of the Matimba exodus.
Whatever the case, the fact remains that the Matimba males moved into Londolozi after the Majinglane moved out, and now they appear to have done the same in the western sector of the Sabi Sand Reserve.
Both the ginger maned Matimba and the male with the hairy belly have been reported mating with one of the Othawa lionesses (report yet to be confirmed), which follows on from a brief sighting of the ginger maned male at Ximpalapala Koppie a few weeks ago. At first there was confusion as to who that mystery lion was, so long had it been since one of the Matimbas had been seen on Londolozi, but after a few references to earlier photos, his identity was confirmed.
Now, with the Majingilane coalition entirely deceased, the whole western section of the Sabi Sand Reserve is up for grabs, with mating rights to the Othawa and possibly Mhangeni females at stake (and possibly the breakaway sub-adult Mhangeni lionesses, depending on their future), and the Matimba males, in yet another opportunistic move, have been seen roaring and scent marking, proclaiming the territory as theirs.
I don’t know where they have been in the interim, but surely from a purely genetic perspective, their inconsistent movements and relatively short tenures over the areas they’ve occupied can’t have in any way ensured breeding success? A male lion’s role is to protect an area in which the females he’s covered can safely raise their cubs, but occupation for just over a year in each territory almost certainly won’t allow enough time for any of the females to get their cubs through to independence. I don’t know much about these males’ history prior to their arrival on Londolozi in 2015, but I do know that only one of their possible offspring (the Tsalala cub) remains alive, and his future looks bleak, given the age of his mother and the fact that his pride no longer falls under the protection of a dominant coalition. Genetically then, the Matimba males can be deemed failures since 2015.
I speak purely from a male lion-reproduction point of view. One can argue ad infinitum about which coalition did what and who is braver and whose legacy is more powerful, but unless the Matimba males sire cubs in the western sector, and then stick around long enough to see those cubs through to independence, their legacy in the reserve will fall far short of what it could have been….