This Week in Video will be released tomorrow.
But for today’s story; many of you will have heard that the Othawa male – the dominant male lion of the Mhangeni pride – was killed a couple of weeks ago near Londolozi’s eastern boundary.
Since both Birmingham males had been seen in the days prior and immediately after the incident, they of course were the prime suspects.
You can read in Ranger Dean de la Rey’s post from two weeks ago what he witnessed that evening, which goes some way towards explaining what happened, but I have a theory that I’m going to put forward here which – at least for me – makes the most sense of some of the conflicting evidence we are presented with.
Fact 1: Despite the Othawa and Birmingham males vocalising at each other multiple times over the course of the last year, as far as I know, the Othawa male has yet to advance in such an aggressive manner towards his rivals in the east’s roars. I’m not saying he hasn’t ever, I’m just saying I haven’t known him to. That to me says it was unlikely that it was the Birmingham males towards which he thought he was advancing.
Fact 2: Melvin Sambo, senior ranger at Londolozi, says the roars he heard (which it seemed like the Othawa male was advancing towards), didn’t sound like a big male, but more like a lioness. Now, there’s also something fishy about this, in that from what everyone who was there says, it was clearly an aggressive advance that they saw from the Othawa male. We’ve seen him move towards a vocalising lioness multiple times, but steadily, often roaring as he goes, most likely intent on mating. His getting up and surging forward towards a female’s roars on that night just doesn’t hold water for me either.
My theory – and I’m going out on a limb here and may well be wrong – is that it was neither a lioness or one of the Birminghams calling that night. It was one of the young males of the Ntsevu pride.
That would likely have triggered the reaponse from the Othawa male.
A few of the sub-adult males in that pride were seen and heard roaring over those few days. They were split up and trying to find each other, and multiple times the contact calls of the young males escalated into full-on roars, or at least as full-on as they could emit. A young male roaring isn’t quite like an adult, dominant male lion. It’s a bit sub-par. It does however, sound very close to the roar of a lioness. And a young male entering the area, that would be vulnerable and likely isolated, would be a prime target for attack by the Othawa male.
What I think happened is that he simply went charging in, responding to the red rag of the calls of a young male lion, and ran slap bang into the killing zone of the two Birmingham males. Whether he caught the young male first and the Birmingham males ran in in response, or he bumped into one of them first, we will never know, but in my mind, that stimulus from a young male lion makes the most sense in light of the evidence with which we were presented.
It was perfectly natural response from a big male, which just happened to take him into the wrong area, and it cost him his life.
More than happy to discuss in the comments below…