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James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on Male Lions: Slim Chance of Success

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If there is just one male cub in a litter, his chance of survival must be even slimmer. He probably can’t survive on his own and what is the odds that he will meet up with another male lion to form a coalition? Or can he survive on his own?

Off topic a bit, but–we saw African male lions at Tswalu immediately after leaving Londolozi. It appeared to us that they were much larger than ones seen at Londolozi. Possible?

Always possible. There is quite a bit of variation in size amongst male lions. For example, the Matimba males were massive; significantly bigger than the Majingilane (or so they appeared)…

James, so true. I really like this blog – it shows how difficult it is to make it as a male lion.

Thanks Joan

GREAT article James and I agree wholeheartedly about the “success” factor of any coalition being the number of offspring they saw through/facilitated being raised to adulthood, and while the Ntsevu cubs haven’t reached there yet, the Birminghams have had success with the Prides they sired in the North (5 -1 male, 4 females – with the Nkuhuma Pride, and I believe 7-8 – 1 male, 6-7 females – with the Torchwood Pride, and I’m not sure at the moment of the makeup of the remaining Styx youngsters).

The Matimbas sired the four older Nkuhuma Lionesses, and I believe some of the Torchwood lionesses are theirs as well, and possibly in the Talamati Pride, though I’m not 100% sure on that.

Do you know how many of the Ntsevu cubs are male?

Thanks Michael.
I really need to get up to date with who is who in other parts of the reserve, so thanks for that info, it really helps!
I don’t actually know offhand how many cubs are male and how many are female. I’ve been a bit slack finding this out but I’ll ask around.

Given the population of the Ntsevu pride cubs, I would imagine there are a few males that could potentially form a coalition if they survive to adulthood. I’m guessing that the time frame would be at least 2-3 years and then they would have to challenge the reigning coalition- correct? It actually seems more females survive….. perhaps not so much competition?

I think it’s that nomadic period for males that costs a lot of them their lives. If females make it beyond 2 years they are mainly going to stick with their natal pride (although not every time, eg. Mhangeni and Ntsevu), so yes, far less competition…
There should be enough males among the Ntsevu cubs to form a decent coalition if they make it to independence. It’s usually around 5 years old (roughly) that they will think of starting to challenge for territory…

Senior Digital Ranger

Excellent pictures and updates…keep up the good work

Thanks Jim.
We’re releasing a fun video today. Be sure to take a look…

Great article James fascinated by the dynamics. In 2015 we saw the Tailless female looking after 4 sub adults of which 3 were male that could have formed a coalition. I always wondered what happened and suspect the moved into the main Kruger.

Mike, unfortunately, only 1 male is alive. He was actually on Londolozi’s soil in the southern sector recently feeding on a buffalo kill. He is still nomadic but in great shape currently. He roams around Lions Sands KNP mostly. The other 2 males were electrocuted in January due to a power line falling in a lightning storm near Skukuza.

Mike, the story of the Tailless Female with those 4 cubs amazed me and I looked for any and all updates I could find on them. It is my understanding only 1 of the 3 males remain. The other 2 were killed in a freak accident in Kruger in January of this year when a heavy thunderstorm brought down power lines and they were 2 of 6 animals electrocuted. I have never rooted for a lioness like I do their sister, the one and only remaining Tsalala Lioness.We are fortunate she is here on Londolozi to be able to see updates on her.

Senior Digital Ranger

The Tsalala Lioness is a Majingilane? The Matimbas didn’t father any female cubs either?
Is is quite disheartening to know the low percentage of survival for these spectacular males. Thank you for you post

Hi MJ.
Yip, very low percentages sadly. A successful male lion is a rare thing!

Thanks James for this blog story. So many people have no idea how important the dynamic of the male coalition is. I have shared this blog story with so many friends of mine in America where I live to help them understand these beautiful cats and how their lives are so important. Have been to Africa many times and have seen so many beautiful lions but not yet to Lodolozi, hopefully soon! Cheers

Senior Digital Ranger

The life of a male lion is hard.

Thank you for letting people know just what odds are stacked against these majestic beauties!! I knew it was slim but did not realize it was this slim. Sad when you think about it and on top of it all, the ones that do make it, have to worry about being hunted for them to hang on someone’s wall!! I would hate to think that there would be no lions left in this world for my grandchildren to see such power and beauty in their lifetime!! Much appreciation and respect from North Carolina.

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