I was recently sorting through some old photographs of mine when I came across a few images of the Southern Pride which I took quite a long time ago.
I remember the morning quite vividly though and it got me thinking about where this seldom seen pride may be. Techinically the pride is down to just a single female and her cubs now… a fall from grace if there ever was one, when you consider they were once the largest pride in the Sabi Sand Reserve. Their former range stretched across a large portion of the central to southern parts of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which meant that we only had the chance of seeing them in the southern reaches of Londolozi – an area that we don’t explore a lot given its great distance from our camps.
Chatting to Londolozi rangers of years past though, it seemed this pride used to be encountered right the way up the Maxabene River, an area that is now firmly under Ntsevu Pride control.
This particular morning we set out looking for the Mhangeni pride that had been found the previous afternoon.
As we made our way into the area where they were last seen we found tracks that indicated they had moved further south during the course of the evening.
Tracking animals is a difficult task in this region of the reserve given the hard, coarse substrate and thick grass that covers the landscape.
Two hours passed and we still had little to no signs of where Mhangeni pride had ended up. Our efforts to find them sent us into the deep south0-western areas of Londolozi and I found myself driving roads that I had not been on for weeks. While we were somewhat frustrated with ourselves that we couldn’t find the lions we were after, it is always quite exciting driving through these areas that aren’t often covered by our team. The sense of excitement comes with the prospect that we could, just maybe, stumble across something unique – something we don’t often see. And that was just what happened.
We found different lions.
We had given up on our hopes of finding the Mhangeni pride and decided to head further east towards a waterhole to stop for a cup of coffee. As we arrived and were climbing off the vehicle we spotted two lionesses lying on the northern bank! My first thought was that it was a portion of the Mhangeni pride that we had been looking for. But after giving it some thought I doubted that it would be them – their tracks had suggested that they had crossed over our southern boundary much further west of where we now were. We hopped back onto the vehicle and slowly approached the lions. As we got a closer look we realised that it was two southern pride lionesses! A really special find considering we hardly ever saw them.
The southern pride have been a recognised pride for sometime now and we at Londolozi used to view them a fair amount in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. However, in the three years that I have worked here, they have only been seen a handful of times. On this day there were, as I mentioned, only two lionesses that we found; an adult and a younger sub-adult who looked to be wounded and was not in the best condition. I didn’t know it at the time but these two lions were the sum total of the pride who once numbered over ten adult lions. They looked as though they had both fed the previous night, albeit on something small, which was a good sign for the wounded individual. However, after speaking to a few guides at the reserves further south of us, it seems as though that sub-adult unfortunately didn’t survive much longer after this sighting.
As far as I am aware, this was the last time the southern pride was viewed on Londolozi. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the remaining lioness doesn’t visit our reserve any longer but is more of a testament to the fact that they reside in a relatively unexplored area. Some good news is that the remaining adult female has, since then, been raising two cubs – now 6 months old – who represent a possible revival of the pride. Hopefully, next time one of us find ourselves exploring our southern boundary, we’ll make an exciting discovery of this lone lioness with her two cubs.