Do you ever get that feeling like something’s been sitting in equilibrium for too long, and change is imminent? Not necessarily drastic change, but something has to give soon, or at least shift.
For a while now the number of nomadic groups of lions has almost outnumbered the number of stable prides, which if I’m honest has made things hard to predict. Let’s break Londolozi up into quarters and we’ll run through the lion movements in each area:
Once the stronghold of the Tsalala pride, the only consistency here these days is the single Tsalala lioness who has been focusing her movements in and around the Manylethi riverbed, and moving south to the Sand River on occasion. Since there has been no regular territorial pride for months, the area has seen incursions from the west by the Mhangeni lionesses, and the north and east by both the Nkahuma and Styx prides. Coalition-wise the Birmingham males are rare visitors, and with no pride presenting mating opportunities, one can understand why.
As far as I’m aware it was the Birmingham coalition that fathered the Styx and Nkahuma cubs and sub-adults (I’d love some clarity here if anyone can help), so logically speaking there is no reason why these prides would be reluctant to move in and attempt to establish territory in Londolozi’s north. The Ntsevu pride forced out the Sparta females, so why would adult lions from these two bigger prides not try and move in to claim territory? This is one of the main reasons I mentioned an uneasy equilibrium earlier. That part of the reserve is absolutely primed for a resident pride, and I’m sure that one will establish itself within the year, it’s just hard to say who it will be.
Along with the deep south, this quadrant has been the most unpredictable, with the Mhangeni sub-adults and the Tsalala males popping up regularly but in no discernible pattern, and the Mhangeni females have been moving in and out of the Sand River right up in the top-left corner. This latter pride’s movements have been regularly consistent around the river as a couple of the females are raising new litters of cubs, but they are still spending a lot of time stashing the cubs in the dense palm thickets and reed-beds, so viewing has been tricky.
The Tsalala males as mentioned in a blog a few days ago, are occupying a kind of no-man’s land between the Birmingham males to the east and the Matimba coalition to the west, so it is likely they will continue to operate in this north-south line for some time.
The Birmingham males and Ntsevu pride make up 95% of the lion viewing in this section of Londolozi, with the occasional visit by the Tsalala lioness near the Londolozi Camps. During the winter months we have traditionally seen the prides that occupy this quadrant operate mainly around the Sand River where game necessarily congregates during dry times, then move further afield in the summer when water and good grazing is available everywhere. The Sparta pride were well known for doing this, and it seems as thought the Ntsevu female are following in their footsteps.
Much like the west-central quadrant, the South has been unpredictable, with the nomadic groups of lions like the Mhangeni sub-adults being the most often viewed. On the subject of the Mhangeni sub-adults, it seems they have had a couple of run-ins with other lions recently, or at least other predators. A group of only five young males was seen a few days ago sleeping near a waterhole deep in the south, and the day before Ranger Alex Jordan had found a badly injured young male not far away. From an original group of more than 10, it seems that they have either splintered or lost a member every couple of months.
The Ntsevu females patrol the eastern fringes of this quadrant as well, and make regular forays away from the Sand River to roughly mid way across Londolozi.
As usual it’s a case of more questions than answers, but if it was anything else, things would run the risk of getting stale.
Instead, it’s a constantly stimulating environment, and we’ve never been happier to be left scratching our heads about what these lions are doing than now…