With the passing of the Tailless lioness, there has obviously been a lot of discussion in the last few days about the future of the Tsalala Pride – or at least the single remaining lioness – and the likely shift in territories of the surrounding prides going forward.
With the very real possibility (I’ll stop myself from saying probability) of the ultimate extinction of the Tsalala name, it struck me that the only tragedy therein is in the human constructs assigned to the lions, and we don’t actually have to worry.
As mentioned in the post from two days ago, the Tsalala lionesses have left behind multiple offspring and descendants to further their genetic line. Without going into the history in too much detail (it’s all available on this blog over the last couple of years), the Mhangeni pride of four lionesses (possibly only three now) split from the Tsalala pride, and the Ntsevu pride in turn split from the Mhangeni pride.
Following so far?
Without counting the current Mhangeni sub-adults, who are prowling round the south of the reserve and are likely going to establish themselves into a new pride as well, we’re already looking at 10 direct descendants of the two Tsalala sisters, or if we really want to be specific, of the original Tailless female herself.
Because of the splitting of prides that has been occurring over the last while – which seems unorthodox but actually happens far more frequently in the wild than many people are aware of – it has been rather easy to lose sight of the fact that genetically, the Tsalala, Mhangeni and Ntsevu prides are essentially all one family. Despite how they may react to each other if they meet (have a look at the Londolozi Instagram post from Thursday of a Mhangeni female getting attacked by the Ntsevu lionesses), the only thing different about them is that they are three prides instead of one. We should be glad they split, immensely glad, as the lion viewing has been far more prolific as a result.
Should the original Tsalala pride have remained together, I’m fairly confident that not as many cubs would have survived, and we certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the same type of lion viewing that we are today. When I said earlier that the human constructs were the only things that should concern us with the potential disappearance of the Tsalalas, I was implying that if you really dig deep enough into it, Ntsevu and Mhangeni females are really just Tsalala lionesses in different guises. We are the ones who named the new prides, we are the ones who grieve when an iconic lioness dies. Not that the grief is a bad thing, but if it’s for the Tsalala name, it is misplaced to a degree.
The Tsalalas are still out there, their legacy intact. What their descendants are named is secondary to their bloodline, which, currently, I would go so far as to say is the strongest in the Sabi Sand Reserve. A bold statement I know, but with three contemporary prides all having come from the same original lioness, it surely can’t be far from the truth.