Fate has not been kind to the Tsalala pride.
One only has to follow the trials and tribulations of these remarkable lions over the last few years to see that things have not always been easy for them.
I suppose life is never easy for any lions, but when you consider the apparent ease with which the Mhangeni pride has raised cubs, and how the Ntsevu females were seemingly gifted a territory and then a powerful coalition of four males, the Tsalala pride just seems to have drawn the short straw every time.
With what we thought could prove to be a nail in the coffin of the pride, the old Tailed female died earlier this year. Discussing the fate of what remained of the Tsalala lions, and given the fact that she was the Tailless female’s sister, the general consensus was that it was unlikely that the Tailless female would see this year through.
And now, in a situation heaped with ironies, it seems that that potentially doom-laden prophecy may be fulfilled.
The Tailless female was found this morning at Marthly Pools, the unofficial home of the Tsalala pride. Bleeding from multiple wounds on her flanks and hindquarters, she was walking agonisingly slowly, and seemed to be struggling to climb even the gentlest of slopes onto some large rocks.
As we watched, she slowly walked into a thick reed bed and lay down next to a dense spikethorn thicket.
Exactly where she lay was the site at which her mother’s body – the original Tailless female – was discovered, after a suspected run-in with the Mhangeni pride, her granddaughters.
In an incredible twist of fate, we believe that the current Tailless female’s injuries were sustained under the teeth and claws of the Ntsevu lionesses; her granddaughters! It’s almost a carbon copy of the situation of 2013.
Tracks nearby told of where the rest of the Tsalala pride had walked, but they had been found a good couple of kilometres away. “Pride” is probably a misnomer, as the grouping were the three Tsalala males and their sister, essentially the entire Tailed female’s litter from late 2013.
The males by all rights should be nomadic, yet have returned to their native Londolozi. The lioness is of reproductive age, but as yet has not showed any signs of falling pregnant. On her shoulders, it can be said, rest squarely the future of the Tsalala pride name.
If one looks at the condition of the Tailed lioness from earlier this year when we wrote of her demise, the Tailless female is in much better shape. However, the extent of her injuries will seriously impede her in keeping up with the pride, and she will be unlikely to be able to hunt for herself. The rate at which a lion can recover from injury decreases rapidly in its final years, and recovery itself is almost a direct result of the amount of nutrition received, which the body needs in order to heal itself. With her lifeline of food suddenly in jeopardy, Freddy Ngobeni’s statement from this morning, “This is the end of Tsalala”, may sadly turn out to be true.
We will monitor her situation going forward.