Male lions fighting; it is simply something I have waited for my whole life to see. Spoiler alert, it is yet to happen in front of me but on this particular night I thought…. finally… maybe…
Here is how it all unfolded over what would be the final hours of the Othawa male. If you have been following the blog you would have seen that the Othawa Male has been slowly pushing into the central parts of Londolozi. This is still very much the territory of the Birmingham male lions, however the Othawa male had been scent marking and roaring all evening. With the Birminghams males seemingly past their prime, the big question was whether a takeover would be possible.
We found him early in the morning after hearing his roar in the southern-central parts of Londolozi, and after we followed him for some time, he lay up in the shade right next to the airstrip where he spent the rest of that day.
Towards evening we found him in the same place, and it was just as the sun started to set he let out a half-hearted roar.
But suddenly his head pricked up, as in the distance we heard other lions roaring, way further east of where we were.
In only seconds, the Othawa male was up, and post-stretch he was running at pace in that direction of the other lions that had been vocalising.
Imagine our excitement at this point! Night descended upon us and with each further roar in the distance (now much closer) the Othawa male continued in that direction. Now one must bear in mind we knew that there was a single Ntsevu lioness together with one of the Birmingham males in the direction he was headed (they had been seen that afternoon). I had told my guests that we may be about to see the serious battle I had so anxiously anticipating for so long.
The Othawa male kept trotting; by this point the roars from the Birmingham and female had stopped but the Othawa male kept following a scent.
We battled to keep up with him as he took the quickest route possible, through thickets and across riverbeds, which proved difficult for the Land Rover to work through. The sheer determination in the lion’s stride was evident.
At this point you need to take a minute to think about what he is running towards: a Ntsevu lioness in the area where she has been keeping her cubs (more on this coming soon), and the Birmingham Males – the fathers of those same cubs. Odds were definitely stacked against him should a physical conflict result. In all likelihood, he was simply responding to the roars of a single lion, and had no clue just how dangerous the area he was running into was.
We watched as the determined male eventually crossed our eastern boundary at speed. We were disappointed we didn’t get to see some interaction but we left the area wondering what the future might hold for him.
The next morning we searched for any sign of him crossing back but found no tracks. Not one.
Three days later, a male lion carcass was found close to the boundary where he crossed.
Many of us initially thought it was one of the Birmingham males who had succumbed to an attack by the Othawa male, but this was apparently not the case, as after comparing the dental structure of the carcass to that from a recent photo of the Othawa male, we worked out it was the Othawa male himself that had been killed.
This male was everything I had imagined an impressive male lion should look like. I had hoped that in my time here at Londolozi I would see him be the dominant male over the whole area, but this was not to be. We may never know how it all unfolded that evening or the night after but he was ultimately defeated, paying the ultimate price.
This is nature in its rawest form and no matter what attachments we may get towards animals, life is different for them, and there is no place for weakness in the wild.
Unfortunately the recognisable roar from the western sector of our reserve will no longer be heard but with this gap comes opportunity for new males to move into the area and try take over what the Othawa male could not.
In saying this, with respect to the life he lived, viewing and hearing this male will be missed by many.