The Birmingham male with the injured hip is impressive, to say the least.
Not on account of his size (he’s semi-emaciated), or his hunting prowess (I doubt he’s pulled down anything in months) but for his sheer tenacity. There have been a number of occasions over the past year (he’s been injured for quite a long time) that we’ve found him, taken one look and presumed he’d be gone within a week.
Yet somehow he persists.
Having witnessed the final demise of the Majingilane early last year, we know what it looks like when a male lion is knocking at death’s door. Their ribs stick out, they walk very slowly (the Birmingham male in question has a pronounced limp due to the injury to his back right hip), and their whole aura is that of a defeated creature.
That being said, the injured Birmingham male isn’t quite like this yet. One thing that still looks like it’s working for him is the thickness of his mane. Males under stress tend to lose condition in their manes; when they’re being harried by rival coalitions and are struggling to hold onto territory, their manes look much sparser and that much less impressive.
There has been no major deterioration in the quality of the Birmingham male’s mane however, despite him being in such poor condition for so long. This is almost certainly due to the fact that there has been no obvious pressure on these lions from other males. Neighbour-wise they are fairly lucky with where they sit – the smaller Avoca coalition of two lies to the south, the even younger Avoca males to the north, and the single Othawa male to the west. The Mantimahle males to the south-east I’m not sure of. I’ve never seen them and don’t know how many are still around from this coalition of 5 big males, but they don’t seem set on any kind of territorial expansion else we would probably have been hearing a lot more about them. Or even hearing them roaring ourselves.
So the injured Birmingham male has a lifeline. Two powerful brothers, a territory that is currently secure, and a pride of 6 females in the form of the Ntsevu lionesses to hunt for him. His main problem is simply keeping up. The pride moved about 9 kilometres last night, trailing a herd of buffalo, which for this male on his bad leg is a serious distance to hobble. As long as the pride are killing regularly and he is close enough to be able to catch up before the food is finished, he can keep his energy levels up, but if he lags too far, and the kills the pride makes are too small, hunger is going to win its slow battle of attrition.
He’s lasted this long though, and without any imminent threats looming, it may well be many months before he succumbs to his injuries. If the pride manages to take down a large buffalo soon (and they haven’t been particularly successfully this winter), that automatically grants him a stay of execution.
It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s something, at least for the short term…