The beginning of 2021 had most of us here predicting the end of an era. The dominant Birmingham Males were closing in on 11 years old and seemed to be reaching the end of their tenure as the lords of central Londolozi. But the brothers pushed through, and as of the beginning of November, still remain stalwart in the defence of their domain.
But here we are, 10 months later, and the position they are in seems all the more precarious. At one point in June this year, at least one Birmingham found himself losing the battle, if not the war, in a skirmish with the Northern Avoca Males. Falling back from the fray to the safety of the river left that male with nothing more than a few scratches, a bad limp and a bruised ego. Months of recovery have seen him crawl back to fighting fitness.
Their somewhat compromised position is further evidenced by the fact that not two months passed, we witnessed as one of the two brothers sat by a waterhole and silently endured hearing one of the Northern Avoca Males, not 2km away, roaring his dominion over central Birmingham territory, while at the same time mating with one of the Ntsevu Lionesses (more about this behaviour in Part 2); almost a sure sign of a take-over. But in that instance, the male we saw was in a bad way, having been gored badly by what we guess to have been a buffalo; so he may have just been playing the longer, smarter game (or was just too concussed to take any mind.) He also did not have his brother with him and that almost certainly factored into his decision not to engage.
Since then, however, that particular male has made a remarkable recovery and the Birminghams have once again proven that their time was not quite up. Obviously having been eating well, and combined with a reactionary surge in testosterone levels, a frame that seemed to be waning in terms of musculature has filled out to an almost miraculous degree, and a mane that seemed to be thinning seems thick and full again; this particular male is back on top form.
His brother, the more forcefully inclined of the duo, as is evidenced by the much more worn appearance and battle-scarred face, is not in quite as good condition; he nurses a perpetual limp – possibly a carry-over from his encounter with the Northern Avoca Males earlier this year – and his hips are quite prominent, a sign of muscle loss. But provided they are together when the time comes to face the challenge that is being laid down, mainly by two rival factions – the Northern Avoca Males and the new arrivals, the four Ndhzenga Males – the two Birmingham Brothers will still be a force to be reckoned with.
And this would definitely not be the first time that a male/coalition has outlasted anyone’s expectations.
The Birmingham Males advertise that they are still the rulers of their realm.
Then enter four new arrivals they are an especially interesting development in the saga that is the Birmingham Males’ dominance. While all eyes were on the Birmingham Males and Northern Avoca Males, the Ndhzenga Males snuck in through the back door, up from the south. The four were briefly seen just flirting with our southern boundary before, circa three weeks back, they threw all caution to the wind and came charging in, directly through central Birmingham territory, roaring their challenge. To which there came no reply! The Birmingham Males stayed out of sight throughout the Ndhzenga Males’ rather indelicate entry into the fray, observing the situation from further east. These four are formidable, yes. However, they are also handicapped to a degree; two are sporting clubfeet, though this doesn’t seem to be hindering them too badly, while one has a badly exposed hernia-like injury where it seems that some part of his stomach/intestine is exposed out of an old buffalo horn injury (assumed) in his side – should this get damaged by tooth or claw, there will be very little chance of that male making it through. However, we have been advised that this injury will eventually heal itself. It will be very interesting to see how things play out for these three blood brothers and their adopted comrade.
And let us not forget that are also several other contenders out there, the Plains Camp Males being especially notable; these two have even been noted roaring their challenge to the Birmingham Males, though as yet we have no evidence that that challenge has been met. But if the past year and the demise of the Othawa Male have taught us anything, experience is key in this game. And the two youngsters, although carrying fantastic genes – this purely based on their size and mane development – may still need some time to fully grow into their role as viable contenders to the lordship over this area and the Ntsevu Pride.
At this point, I am not saying that a take-over of the Birmingham territory has occurred; simply the tides of power have merely begun to ebb and flow with more vigour than they have done these last three years and one thing is certain; the inevitable end of the Birmingham males’ era of dominance is drawing ever nearer or is it? Could clever tactics and experience allow them to hang in there or will youth and high energy be the winner of the day?
How do you think it’s going to play out over the coming year?