The Mhangeni pride of lions is, at this point, one of the most viewed prides in the Sabi Sand Reserve.
The adult females are eleven years old and were born on the reserve. It’s hard to say how many times they’ve been viewed and photographed (although a collation of sightings data from different lodges could actually tell us!), but pictures of them must number in the hundreds of thousands!
I have spent quite a bit of time with these lions over the last few years. I have seen thirteen of the then sixteen lions drinking side by side ; I have seen them hunting buffalo… on one occasion, when the pride was as big as I previously mentioned, they hunted, killed and ate both a female and juvenile buffalo in one day! The adult lionesses – of which there are now three – are formidable.
Many of you reading this may know about or have even seen these lions. Even though at Londolozi, on any given day, we could see a host of different prides, lions are territorial meaning they usually move around a given area. Hence, the lion sightings we have at present are dominated by the Mhangeni and Ntsevu prides.
However, something changed just over a six weeks ago and the Mhangeni pride moved, during the night, much further south than normal. We went out looking for them the next morning and followed their tracks all the way to the grassland area at the southern tip of Londolozi where the tracks disappeared.
For about three weeks trackers, rangers and their guests went out looking for this pride and to no avail… they were gone. It turns out other rangers had seen the pride far into the south of the Sabi Sand Reserve, way out of their typical home range or territory. Were they following their prey movements? We didn’t notice any pressure on them from other lions in the area so why else would they move?
Most likely they were tailing a big herd of buffalo, picking off victims as they could. A large herd had been spending time south of our boundary and may well have drawn the pride out of their normal range.
We had very few sightings of the Mhangeni pride for weeks… if any at all. On a good day lions can be hard to find, and now we were less one pride!
Then one morning, about two weeks ago, the Mhangeni pride was found again central Londolozi. Would they stick around? Or was this a visit that would last a day, and would they be gone again in the evening? I was not sure so I did what most of us guides did; try to see them that evening before they would potentially up and leave. I did see them that evening. In fact, all the photographs in this post are from that evening. It was a windy, overcast afternoon… perfect for hunting. That night we followed them for some time; they did not hunt while we were with them, but were found the next morning with full bellies. Most importantly they were found the next morning, and again that evening, and the following morning after that! They had returned.
The Mhangeni pride are still being viewed every few days on Londolozi, totally unaware of their role as ambassadors for conservation. With so many viewings of this pride and so many photographs taken of them over the years, imagine how many conversations have been had about them and their dynamics, how many photographs of them lions are now circulating on social media platforms, and how much joy these lions have brought people.
Can you can understand why we were happy to see them again?