What has been your favourite surprise of the year so far?
2022 has been somewhat of a whirlwind and the first half of the year has flown by. Perhaps your best surprise may have been your children unexpectedly joining you for your birthday, or perhaps it was finding a crumpled up $20 note in the pocket of an old pair of jeans that you forgot about, or perhaps it was the ability to travel again, and being able to travel to Londolozi? For the ranging team at Londolozi, there has been one surprise that ranks above most – the arrival of a new pride of lions.
It was in mid-April that the Talamati Pride had officially arrived on Londolozi for the first time that we can recall. They had been seen once or twice in the far north-western reaches of the reserve before this, but on this occasion, they seemed to have arrived with the intention of sticking around. They had killed a kudu just to the North of the Sand River and then proceeded to cross south through the river the next morning, progressing further and further into Londolozi – land they had not yet traversed.
To say that they, “announced their arrival” is somewhat inaccurate, they rather attempted to stay under the radar and not cause a huge stir – most likely because they knew they were in a foreign area in which there may be an existing pride or coalition of males.
They have continued to exhibit this behaviour, moving large distances during the night and into the late hours of the morning, attempting to remain undetected by other lions that might be in the vicinity. One thing for certain is that they have provided some quality game viewing, and so we hope that they decide to stay!
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And so the question remains – who is the Talamati Pride and where do they come from? I shall try to keep this as brief and simple as possible, as we know – lion dynamics can get complicated! To our knowledge, this is what we have managed to unveil about these spectacular lions.
The Talamati Pride broke away from the Nkuhuma Pride in 2007 when the Mapogo Males took over from the Manyelethi Males. At this point, they were known as the Nkuhuma Breakaway Pride. They established territory north of their natal pride where they were then taken over by the ‘Old Nkuhuma Males’. After a bout of mating, the females gave birth to two females, one of which is blind in one eye (known as silver-eye) who are now the oldest lionesses in the Talamati Pride. One year later in 2008, the pride dispersed to the Kruger National Park with the ‘Old Nkuhuma Males’.
It was in 2011 that they were formerly named the ‘Talamati pide’ after the Talamati Bushveld Camp, with Talamati meaning ‘lots of water’ in Xitsonga. The pride returned to the Sabi Sands later that year. Soon after their return, they were taken over by the Matimba Males and by this stage ‘Silver-eye’ and her sister were reaching sexual maturity and would then mate with the Matimba Males and have cubs of their own. Of all the cubs sired by the Matimba males, only one female survived and is no longer with the pride. When the Matimba Males were chased out by the Birmingham Males in 2015, the Selati Males moved in and claimed the Talamati Pride of which there were five females now. Two old females died during the Selati reign, leaving the pride with three lionesses in it.
In early 2019 the male lion dynamics were stirred up with the Nothern Avoca Male Coalition of three brothers starting to make a name for themselves. They forced the Birmingham Males Southwards and claimed the Nkuhuma pride as their own and removed the Selati males as the dominant force over the Talamati pride, claiming these lionesses as their own too.
In late 2019/early 2020, the Nkuhuma Pride shifted south, and so did the Talamati pride. It was also at this time that the Dark-maned Avoca Male separated himself from his two brothers and associated himself strictly with the Talamati lionesses – of which there were 5 at the time, three older females and two younger females.
In 2021, the Imbali male (a male lion whose territory lies slightly further east) sensed that the Dark-maned Northern Avoca Male was alone and attempted to claim the Talamati as his own. The hostile takeover was halted when three Talamati lionesses (the sole Matimba daughter and the two Selati Daughters) left their pride and mated with the Imbali male as they had now come back into estrus.
These weren’t the only losses for the pride around this time… It was in early 2019 that The Northern Avoca brothers sired nine cubs, six female and three male. Unfortunately, one male and one female sub-adult from these litters died in 2021, and another female sub-adult was killed by the Plains Camp Males in early 2022, leaving four sub-adult females and two sub-adult males.
This brings us to the pride as we see it today: Two adult lionesses and six sub-adults. Naturally, the sub-adults are roaming around and will at times separate themselves away from their natal pride. For that reason, we usually see the core, consisting of the older two lionesses and two sub-adult males and two sub-adult females.
And so the next question springs to mind – what next for the pride? I have to believe that in the coming 6 months to a year the pride will be dominated by a new coalition of males. Whether it’s the Plain’s camp males to the West, the Imbali male to the North or Ndzhenga males to the south east – who knows. The Dark-maned Avoca is somewhat struggling to keep up with the vast distances that the pride covers and is no longer advertising his territory vocally or via olfactory functions. It’s a matter of time before the sub-adult females come into estrus themselves and other males find out about it.
One thing is for sure, we will keep you updated with the pride’s progress should they decide to stay on Londolozi permanently!