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James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on The Othawa Male: What Really Happened That Night

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Thank you for the detailed explanation. It’s sad not to read more about this wonderful lion

Thanks for that update. It makes a fair bit of sense. Obviously. We will never know for sure. But. Whichever way it was. Nature made the final decision. As sad as it was, in the end.

interesting theory. But I think (confirm this, please) that male lions know more or less the borders of the territory of other male lions, so the Othawa male knew that he was roaring deep into the Birmingham males’ territory. So it was still a very bold (crazy, I would say) move from him. And I don’t think that 6 months ago he would have done that. He was clearly advancing in a easterly direction over the past few months, from what I manage to understand from your blog

Agree! Crazy move from a male lion who who unfortunately did not know a nomadic life before being a pride male, which would have taught him a lot for how to deal with rival pride males.

Fascinating theory. Certainly very plausible. Would the roars of younger theoretically weaker males be enough to trigger an aggressive response?

I would imagine so, but ultimately this is all conjecture…

Thanks for the article James, any theories on how he made it back into Londolozi before dying? Did the carcass show signs of a broken spine?

Hi Adam, I imagine he would have been chased there and the final conflict happened where his carcass was found. Hyenas and vultures had been at the carcass so it was hard to establish what injuries he had sustained in the actual fight…

Senior Digital Ranger

I think your scenario is plausible, and logically makes sense. Thank you for sharing. He will be missed and fate of his cubs now hangs in the balance.

Given your experience as a Ranger I think you could have a point. Still it is sad to have lost a lion. Sounds we may have to keep a closer eye on the younger pride in the area! Thank you. Victoria

James it is so very sad and heartbreaking that the Othawa male was killed. Your theory makes perfect sense to me. As you say we will never know what really happened that fatal night. When Ranger Dean wrote about it, I was devastated. I just could not imagine never to hear his roar again. He was so majestic.

James, boy do you have a way of getting our minds spinning with all of your theories and facts! You seem to have done some serious homework on this and you’ve obviously spent a great amount of time piecing together all of the data. Since no one will ever really know exactly what happened, we will buy into your theory and leave it at that! He was a majestic lion, lived a good life and will be missed. Thanks again for a great post!

You’re welcome Michael and Terri! 🙂

Iam still not buying your reason. It will be more clear if at least an audio of the fight will give us satisfaction of what really transpired on that fateful night…so it will be more believable… my opinion only. Thank you for hearing me out.

I think your theory makes sense. However, does Melvin agree with you? Your rangers know their stuff so well, I wonder if he’s got any thoughts about whether it was a young male calling instead of a female? One of life’s mysteries – isn’t it wonderful that there are still times that we’ll never know the answer to what happened somewhere, instead of everything being captured on a camera, CCTV or drone footage!


Sounds feasible.

thank you for sharing your thoughts about the happenings around Prince Othawa’s death … it’s by far the most plausible theory I’ve read …

So sad the Othawa Lion is gone, he was gorgeous. Two Kings gone, Scar (my favorite) and the Othawa lion.

James, can you tell if there were tracks of other lions around the area where the remains of the Othawa male was found or the othawa lion moved alone into the area? I believe this could elucidate better what really took place in this dramatic event where we lost the most beloved lion of Sabi Sands.

Hi Tiago,
Unfortunately the carcass was only found about 60 hours after the incident; more than enough time for any tracks in the area to have been walked over and become confusing, especially around the carcass where there weer a ton of hyena tracks…

Thanks for your theory and taking the time to express your own opinion

Hello James, sounds like a good theory… You live there so you can have the right feeling for what could have happend… I loved the Othava male! I have been following his development from october 2018, he came and lived a very risky life and in the end he manged to be the dominant male lion of the Mhangeni pride.
It is so very sad that he is no longer around…. He was entering his prime large, fit and youthful. And he was enormously beautiful! I know through your wounderful blog that the Mhangeni pride has a little cub that is an offspring of the Ottawa male…
How is the little cub doing? Is he/she still alive?
I hope he/she will continue the beauty that the father started… I am looking forward to hear news about the little offspring….
Thank you for a very good blog!

James, I forgot to ask, how has the Mangheni pride reacted on his death, that he is no longer around?

Hi Ann,
Sadly I think they have already lost. couple of cubs; there has been a coalition of two young males trailing them, but I’m not 100% sure which ones…

James that theory makes sense. What surprises me is that, other than some new facial scratches to one of the males, there wasn’t more visibile damage to either Birmingham inflicted by the Othawa male. What do you make of this?

Valid question Chris, but when it’s two vs one, the single male is often so busy just spinning around trying to protect his flanks and rump, he doesn’t have a chance to get hold of his assailants…

Master Tracker

A real shame – a single male lion always had the odds stacked against him – so in sporting terms – always rooting for him

Senior Digital Ranger

Considering that Othawa was said to be only 6 years old,.. he was, in his own way, still vulnerable. Second, Othawa, as he was known to be,.. he acted on his protective instincts. As some have said, he took a big chance and “crossed the lines.”
Upon the ending outcome, something is very strange (and sad), as we will never truly know what happened to cause Othawa’s death. It’s heart breaking, as Othawa contributed something special in energy that could be felt across the world, clearly that of “Lion Love.” Othawa was truly a unique lion. He had a sense of gentleness spirit within him. He showed a sense of accountability towards his pride. (sense in another video of him) Othawa might have been a male lion, but his “Cupeth was full and ran over, filled with love,” as he shared it generously with his pride. His wanderings showed his courageous spirit and his intelligent lion curiosity. Sadly, he seemed to have made a bad judgement call that fateful night.

Digital Tracker

Great theory James! The death of the Othawa male really touched me. He was an incredibly beautiful lion too.

James, it is very possible that the Othawa Male lion did hear the sub adults roar. They had been roaring over those few days. Possibly, as a test to see if they would be challenged. He may have been going for them, but ran into the Birmingham’s. Possible evidence is the one Birmingham’s had an injury related to scratching.

So under this theory, the young males “lured” the Othawa male into a trap, inadvertently or otherwise. Is there any evidence that they were part of the ambush?

Hi Mary Beth,
To be honest I doubt there would have been that kind of planning involved; I think whatever happened was purely circumstantial…

Your summary of what might have happened certainly made sense, but one of the great mysteries of nature is that we may never really know. And thought provoking adds to the mystique, which makes it all the more an enigma. Always enjoy your commentary and always learn something new. Stay well and best from California.

Thanks James, for your insights. I think that this is a very valid theory. Are there any others? Would love to hear/read……

Hi James
I, like many am still so sad for Prince Othawas loss. Such a beautiful boy, hard to believe he won’t be around anymore. I didn’t realise subs might sound like a lioness but your theory I guess is totally possible.
What do you think about the possibility of the lioness/s luring him in, knowing 1 bboy is there, just to attack him? Obviously they wanted to keep cubs safe. After watching the footage and seeing 1 bboy laying down but roaring( didn’t seem very intense) and the lioness roaring too it just seemed odd that he would be so intent when it wasn’t his territory. Surely he heard the bboy, the girls but was his desire to mate or oust them? He gets there is attacked by bboy, lioness(who would’ve been like a psycho coz of cubs) and then bboy2 comes in and they well u know.

This is what I asked on Facebook
Is it at all possible that the infertile lioness is deliberately drawing in other males to end in battle with Bboys winning?? It just seems like that to me with OM, plains camp(altho they didn’t fight) and now this boy?

Well, whoever was roaring and why the Othawa ran straight into terrible fate, will probably never be solved 100%. But I think that your theory is a good one, James.
It is so sad that this beautiful lion does not exist any more. I had the privilege to admire him just a couple of weeks before he wa killed. He represented real lion majesty.

James, thanks for adding another dimension to the story of the demise of the Othawa male.

Hmmm, another interesting theory, but as written by a few other lion watchers, we’ll never know. So for now , I’ll hold onto my theory (and hope) that the Birmingham males had enough fight left in them to defend their pride. They may not be magnificent any longer, but their intensity is intact.

Senior Digital Ranger

The only thing we really know is that we lost a beautiful creature that use to walk the earth.
His presence will be truly missed. He will forever be in our hearts…

As always James, you have got us all deliberating over this possible scenario ….it’s certainly thought provoking. You and all the rangers and trackers will certainly have/ will spend hours pouring over the facts but for us it’s a little difficult having not been there at the time. Whatever the outcome, Im sad that I never had the pleasure of seeing this magnificent lion in the flesh, nor that he will ever have heartwarming photos and stories told about his life as he wonders through Londolozi for us to enjoy. May he enjoy new pastures with Scarface by his side 🙏🏻❤️

James that makes a ton of sense! Of course (as I’m sure you will know) there will be those who don’t want to look at the facts and situations at hand and simply believe the Othawa Male was being “brave” or the Birmingham Males are “untouchable”, when biologically-speaking, all lions involved were acting upon instinct and the natural way they operate. Of course there is the discussion that goes to the “success” of a male lion like the Othawa Male, but that is for another time. Your theory makes a ton of sense though and I think it seems very likely given what we do know about the Othawa Male’s final sightings

I’m a little late here..but having read your take on the fateful night and the blog and replies I’d say most of my thoughts and queries have been answered. Non the less tragic to see such a beautiful young male loose his life in his prime. Perhaps he and Scarface will form a new coalition wherever they now roam 🙏🏻

Hi James,
I know I’m getting into this communication late, but is the 1st picture on this post taken of the carcass or some other time before the lion was killed?

Well, that lion was my favorite and it still hurts today that he is gone and all too young, Was it his genes that were inferior? No. was it something that could have been prevented? We know what happened to the Sand River males and other lions, we humans intervened, but this is a tough call and just a bad break, same deal that happened the the young Mhangeni male, just bad breaks through no fault of their own but maybe we can at least make sure his only offspring with the blood of Majingalene and Mopogo will survive, I would be more likely to visit and stay at a resort that I know does what it can to help the animals and let’s face it, there already is human interference going on and this won’t cause a gene pool issue. I have had my favorite lions but Othawa won’t be replaced.

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