As we all know, far too well, lion dynamics is an interesting topic and a fairly tricky one to accurately predict. Tensions amongst the lion world are high and a change is imminent. But the big question is what will change? I am going to use this opportunity to run through, fairly loosely, the current male lion dynamics that may have an impact on lion viewing at Londolozi.
Most of the male lions we will speak of are approaching five years of age and looking at previous coalitions and their successful takeovers, five years seems to be the age where males have built up the strength and confidence to lay down a challenge, drive out the dominant males and take claim of territory and, with it, associated prides of females. Dominant over the majority of Londolozi are the Birmingham Males who currently cover the Ntsevu Pride.
Most of these males have all kept a low profile in their nomadic life, steering well clear of the already established coalitions that surround Londolozi. Essentially buying time and concentrating most of their movements within the Sabi Sands gAME Reserve. This helps them determine what potential competition they will one day face through the surrounding territorial roars.
How much longer will the Birmingham Males rule for? That’s the big question but in order to answer this, we need to talk about male lions. We are currently seeing and hearing 5 separate coalitions on and around Londolozi.
The Two Birmingham Male lions (+-12 years) who come from the Timbavati, near Ngala Game Reserve, dominant males since 2017. There were originally four dominant Males that arrived onto Londolozi and only two remain.
The Nkhuma Male Lion (+-5 years), mainly seen in central-western parts of Londolozi. Since losing his coalition partner, the Styx Male a few months ago, this Male has the odds stacked against him in being an alone male, but is growing into a fairly impressive young male.
The two Plains Camp Male Lions (+-5 years) arrived from the Kruger National Park and have been lurking around the northern parts of Londolozi. Occasionally pushing into the heart of the Birmingham Males’ territory.
The three Northern Avoca Male Lions (+-8 years), were originally from the Timbavati area and are now territorial over northern parts of Londolozi and quickly pushing further south, we have only seen two of the three but believe that the third has been seen coming further south, so we may see him soon.
And the Four N’waswitshaka/Ndhzenga Male lions (+-6 years) who come from the KNP, near Skukuza, have been seen venturing into Londolozi from the south. Keep an eye out for more on these males in the near future.
Since I began my journey as a guide at Londolozi, the Birmingham Males have been the dominant males over the majority of Londolozi. Watching this coalition maintain their territory has been an incredible journey, arriving as four, then three, and now two males that continue to provide amazing game viewing. Most guides and trackers believe that these males barely ever do a territorial patrol, a behaviour that is usually expected of a dominant coalition. Their main stronghold is to the eastern parts of the reserve, but occasionally we either find them or see their spoor in the central parts of the reserve.
Being a formidable coalition, there is something fierce within their roar. In the past, I had been sitting with the Styx and Nkhuma Males while hearing the Birmingham Males’ vibrating roar. The two younger males were quick to their feet and started jogging in the other direction. Their reign has been monumental with raising at least 12 cubs to independence between the NtSevu and Tsalala Females. But how much longer will these brothers reign for?
Upon quick reflection, we thought it may be over when the Othawa Male appeared to be rising to the challenge. This is a touchy subject as I will never forget watching this male hear the roar of the Birmingham Males and trot into that direction on that fateful evening. It was quickly proven he was no match for them and suffered the ultimate fate, proving once again, the strength of the Birmingham Males, old or not.
Although we like to believe age is not just a number with animals out here in the wild, the fact is that yes, with age comes wisdom and experience, especially amongst Males lions and the Birmingham Males. However, this only goes so far as ageing lions are more prone to injuries and within the next year at least we are going to see an increase in the deterioration of the Birmingham Males. We are already starting to see more limps and niggles with each sighting of them.
They are under immense pressure from both the Northern Avoca Males pushing south and the younger formidable four Ndhzenga Males, pushing in from the south, roaring both day and night, as well as the young and opportunistic coalitions such as the Plains Camp Males and Nkuhuma Male.
Your guess is as good as mine as to who will take over, but trying to predict it is always fun. In my opinion, the young coalitions aren’t quite there yet to take over or drive the Birmingham Males out. It may be a nomadic male coalition from Kruger National Park, the options are endless but I am keeping my eye on the three Northern Avoca Males as well as the Four Ndhzenga Males.
I fall asleep every night waiting for that one day I will leap out of bed hearing two roars close to another and knowing that the battle of male lions has begun. It is my ultimate dream to witness this epic clash of two coalitions, and more so who the clash will be between that excites me more.