The Tsalala female has been conspicuous by her absence.
We ran a story on her a couple of weeks ago featuring a big altercation between her and a clan of hyenas over a wildebeest kill.
After that there were only one or two sightings of her over the next few days, and then… nothing.
Reports from our neighbours indicate she has been seen a number of times in the Manyelethi River near the confluence with the Sand River, but the first sighting on Londolozi again occurred 36 hours ago about one kilometre south-east of camp. Tracker Richard Mthabine, on stand-by duty and heading out to help with a mechanical failure in another vehicle, bumped into her on the edge of a dry waterhole, and his reports were not all that positive.
He said that she looked like she had been in a proper scuffle, and her flanks and hindquarters were scarred. Her cub was not with her.
Whether her fight was with hyenas or other lions we can’t say, but the unfortunate reality for her is that she is almost always going to be outnumbered by default.
The Ntsevu pride have been seen a number of times recently on the big clearings just east of camp, south of the Sand River where the Tsalala lionesses used to be encountered frequently, and now with the Styx and Nkuhuma prides making regular appearances in our northern sector, the Tsalala female must surely be feeling the pinch.
Squeezed between bigger prides in all directions, what does she do?
A lot will depend on whether her cub is still alive or not. No sightings of it have been had in the last 10 days, and although this in itself isn’t conclusive, it is certainly cause for concern.
It is not unheard of for solitary lions to integrate into other prides, but I have to say I feel this is unlikely.
The fact remains that this fairytale of a single lioness raising cubs and her story having a happy ending – at least for now – was always a long shot.
The story certainly isn’t over for now, but it may well just have taken a sad turn…