I don’t know how many of you have watched the old Indiana Jones movies from the 80’s. But there always seemed to be some sort of ancient trap in which Harrison Ford’s character is about to be squashed by two walls of a cave that are advancing slowly towards him and only in the nick of time does he find the escape route or manage to jam his hat in and so stop the walls’ inexorable advance, thereby escaping a rather unenviable fate.
Well I imagine the Tsalala pride must feel something similar to Indiana Jones, with big prides and their accompanying males pressing in from all sides, slowly squeezing them out of territory.
The number of photos I’ve got of the two Tsalala females (the sub-adult is probably old enough now to have earned that title) that I’ve taken since the beginning of Lockdown I can count on the fingers of two hands, so scarce have sightings been. The two lions have confined their movements to a very narrow band of territory stretching along the Sand and Manyelethi Rivers, and their safety has ultimately lain in their silence. Every few weeks we’ll find tracks of the pair or they’ll show up to rob a leopard of its kill, but for the most part they are ghosts, just a memory that we hope is still out there, but we never really know.
A couple of years ago there was a female leopard that had been fitted with a radio transmitter for research purposes in the Kruger Park, that wandered onto Londolozi and set up shop here for the better part of a month. And no one saw her. Not once! The tracks we saw during that time we presumed were those of one of the territorial individuals, and bushbuck alarming in the Sand River must have been doing it at a leopard we would recognise, but when we were sent the data of this female’s movements, it seemed she had been through camp, around camp and criss-crossing half the reserve without any of us having the first clue.
And that is essentially what the Tsalala pride have been doing.
We don’t hear the Tsalala female roar anymore. She does not need to find a male to mate with for another 6 months at least and to announce her territorial presence will most likely bring down unwanted attention on her head.
Six Mhangeni lionesses to her west.
Six Ntsevu lionesses to her east and south (who she’s already clashed violently with).
Eight Nkuhuma females to her north…
Surely she’s feeling the pinch.
Speculation (which of course we love to do) doesn’t really help much. All we know is the Tsalala female is still here, well over two years since she became a solo lioness. It’s frustrating that we only see her every few weeks, but we’ve started to make our peace with it, and there is less anxiety these days about an extended dearth of sightings of her and her daughter.
During the winter the neighbouring prides will have been focusing on the main water sources in their respective territories, but with summer upon us and water and prey about to be plentiful all over the reserve once more, we are probably going to see more lion movement, which is not something the Tsalala duo want to see happen…