The lonely roars of the Tsalala lioness have been emanating from the Sand River a lot recently.
I use “lonely” in the acceptance that it is a human construct, and one can’t know for sure what that lioness is feeling, but knowing her situation one can’t help but empathise in some way with her plight. Without any companionship whatsoever, a social animal like a lion must surely experience some kind of negative emotion; again, emotion is a word I hesitate to use. But surely emotion isn’t limited purely to the human species.
Anyway, my point is that the lioness’s isolation continues to persist. The Ntsevu pride to the south-east, the Mhangeni females to the west, the Styx pride to the north-east… She is essentially boxed in. Leaving aside her prospects of joining a pride, I want to briefly touch on the male dynamics in the area and how they pertain to her.
Although the Birmingham males continue to concentrate their movements on and around the Ntsevu females, there have nevertheless been one or two forays made by one of the males in particular into Londolozi’s central reaches, into the heart of where the Tsalala lioness has been spending her time. Ironically it is the same male who killed the Tsalala sub-adult last year, yet he could be the best way for the current Tsalala female to prolong her tenuous hold on Londolozi’s northern parts.
Although a lone Ottawa male has been found moving through Londolozi’s northern sector a few times in the past weeks, he isn’t likely to pose a real threat to any neighbouring coalition, being only 3 1/2 years old at the moment. Whilst the romantic idea of this single male joining with the lone Tsalala female is the kind of stuff Hollywood stories are made of, the reality is that for both of them, a there is only the slightest chance of a happy ending. I’m not trying to be a naysayer here, I’m simply stating fact. For a single male, taking over a territory is an unlikely prospect, when coalitions of three, four or five might be your competition. And likewise for the lioness; her only real hope is to join another pride. To fall pregnant and raise cubs by herself – essentially starting a new pride from scratch – might be a bridge too far. Which isn’t to say it can’t happen, we’re just saying it’s unlikely.
Be that as it may, the Birmingham males have still been sniffing around.
Well, at least one of them has. And should this lone female have any chance of maintaining territory in which to possibly raise cubs, her best bet would to be come under the umbrella protection of a large territorial coalition like the Birminghams. Whether or not a lone lioness is enough reason for them to expand even slightly remains to be seen, but my guess is no. The male who seemed to be searching for her recently was displaying the flehmen grimace regularly; what he discovered we can’t be sure, but if the lioness had been in oestrus it is likely the male would have sought her out more actively, rather than disappearing back to the Ntsevu pride later that night like he did.
The whole Tsalala saga is currently in a bit of a stalemate, with the lioness having occasional run-ins with the Ntsevu females downstream from the Londolozi camps, killing the odd nyala, but not really making progress in any particular direction. She seems to be in perfect health and is feeding regularly, yet hasn’t looked like producing cubs. This last bit is the key factor. With not every mating bout between lions resulting in the female falling pregnant, there needs to be consistent interaction between the female and a male – any male – for there to be a chance of her bearing a litter.
And unfortunately, while the Birmingham males continue to remain firmly entrenched with the Ntsevu females and their current three litters of cubs, it seems as though these males aren’t destined to be the Tsalala female’s answer. At least not for now.