In celebration of World Lion Day, we thought we would do a quick recap on the different lion prides that we currently see on Londolozi, while bearing in mind that the lion dynamics, more so now than ever, are constantly changing and surprising us.
It is very unusual to see all of the different lion prides on the reserve simultaneously – as each territory ranges far wider than the borders of our reserve. The lion dynamics have certainly kept us guessing in recent months as breakaway prides form, nomadic prides come and go, and new additions are added.
The contents of this blog are as accurate a representation as we can give from what we have seen on the ground here, please let us know in the comments below if there is anything we have left out, but one thing for sure is the Lions of Londolozi certainly provide some amazing sightings overall.
The Ntsevu Pride
With the arrival of the Ndhzenga Males and the fall of the Birmingham Males, this pride has certainly become fractured. It is difficult to say exactly how many lions make up the core of this pride now as we no longer see them all together. It seems that three of the adult females spend a lot of time together and have been joined by four of the subadults, with a fourth adult roaming further distances and not always being seen with the rest.
Shortly after the arrival of the new males, three adults began mating and gave birth to a brood of new cubs. Having initially denned the cubs in a pretty inaccessible area, we believe that they then moved the cubs into the Sand River and have not been seen again since. It is believed that they may have been killed by the Inyathini Male. Two females have since been seen mating with the Ndzhenga Males, so the prospects of there being more cubs on the way are pretty high.
The Ntsevu Two Plus Two
The other two adults are the mothers of the last of the Birmingham Males’ offspring. They have essentially broken away from the core of the pride to keep the cubs safe and away from the Ndzhenga Males, and as such, they have not yet been classified as their own pride. It will be interesting to see if at any point these two females who have been separated for almost a year now will ever integrate back into the pride itself.
The Ntsevu Breakaway Pride
At the time of the arrival of the Ndzhenga Males, the Ntsevu Subadults were nearing the age of 3-3,5 years old and would have naturally been close to beginning the nomadic stages of their lives roaming the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. In order to keep themselves safe, they moved further west and kept under the radar. The overthrown Birmingham Male would often be seen in close company with them but has now teamed up with the Nkuhuma Male (who was sired by the Birmingham Males, and so either his son or nephew) and found solace in the Western Sector.
The original 12 subadults (six males and six females) seem to have split up as they try to survive while avoiding other formidable prides. Over time, this breakaway pride fractured further as they began their nomadic search for stability, some moved further south while another portion moved north.
As we mentioned earlier, four young females joined up with their mothers, these are the older female subadults. The younger two female subadults have been sticking with their brothers. The oldest young male has been spending time in the Kruger National Park, while the second oldest has been bouncing between the Kruger and the Sabi Sands. The other four males have been roaming the Sabi Sands and only time will tell whether the Ntsevu Young Males will form a coalition and take on other prides of lions in the Kruger or will they be split up further or try to take over prides nearer to home? These questions will only be answered in the years to come.
The Tsalala ‘Pride’
The use of pride is definitely an opportunistic one. However, the Tsalala Female is still doing well as she soon approaches 3,5 years, sexual maturity and hopefully the rebirth of a Tsalala Pride once more. She still spends time roaming the banks of the Sand River and only recently has begun to roar. Could it be her search for a male or perhaps the company of a pride?
However, initially thought to be quite unlikely that she could join up with any other pride of lions, fate would have it that she met up with an older lioness from the Mhangeni Pride. The two of them have been seen together a number of times over the last two weeks. An exciting prospect of a new pride forming but we will have to wait to see what the future holds for the Tsalala female.
Since the death of the Othawa Male, last year this pride has been roaming far reaches of their territory and has pushed further south. With the one youngster from the Othawa Male still alive they have certainly done well to avoid the presence of any males that would be a threat.
This pride hasn’t been seen in a while but there is hope that we may be seeing them more as they are now spending time a little closer to Londolozi.
However, it is believed that one original female left the pride to mate with a Plains Camp Male, she returned to the pride only to then leave again shortly after to mate again. After mating, she was unable to find the pride and ended up roaming around for a while before subsequently meeting up with the Tsalala Female.
So the Pride now consists of two older original lionesses, two lionesses that survived from a litter of 12 in 2015/2016, one lioness from the 2018 litter and the last remaining cub from the Othawa Male’s reign born in 2021.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this pride going forward, where they choose to settle and what comes of the last Othawa Male’s cub.
This used to be one of the biggest prides of lions seen in the northern parts of the Sabi Sands. We began to see them on Marthly in 2018 as the Tsalala Pride numbers dwindled. However now they have broken into three factions, and so we no longer see the entire 23 lion compliment.
In no particular order, the first faction is made up of two adult females who are littermates born in December 2012, one female is currently raising two cubs (1 male and 1 female) sired by the Plains Camp Males and the other looks like she will give birth soon too. They normally spend time further west of Londolozi but last week these four lions and the two Plains Camp Males were seen on Londolozi.
The second faction also consisted of two adult females, and seven subadults (5 male and 2 female) born between May and December 2019 and fathered by the Northern Avoca Males. One of the adult females was born in December 2012 and a littermate of the other two mentioned above. Sadly she sustained an injury to her hind leg in 2020 and her condition deteriorated since then. She was last seen three weeks ago when 21 Nkuhuma lions were seen feeding on a giraffe. She was not looking good and could not hold her own against the other lions and struggled to feed. The second adult was born in 2013 and has still been moving around with the subadults.
The third and final faction consists of three females born in mid-2016. They are seen with seven sub-adults (3 male and 4 female) born from April to June 2021 and fathered by the Northern Avoca Males.
The Sub-adults mentioned above are also twittering on the verge of becoming nomadic, often being seen by themselves roaming the reaches of Londolozi and beyond.
The newest pride to have been found on Londolozi. I must say this pride has been an exciting addition to time out in the field as these lions certainly cover great distances not only during the night but during the day too. When finding tracks of this pride early in the morning sometimes leads you across the Sand River and about 5 kilometres away from where they first crossed into Londolozi.
This Pride consists of eight lions, two adult females, two impressive young males and four females. The Northern Avoca Male is often seen with them as a ‘9th’ addition. Although this pride is a breakaway pride from the Nkuhuma Pride years ago, time will tell where they establish themselves.
This pride sadly has not been viewed much at all anymore on Londolozi, we have only had a handful of sightings towards the southern parts of the reserve in the last year. It seems they have finally established themselves in the old Ndhzenga Males’ territory to the south of us. This pride of three adults and 11 cubs is also covered by the Ndhzenga Males, who have been spending a lot less time with them since they took up residence further north.
I often think that pride is a definitive term to establish lineages and groups of lions however it is definitely a fluid term. With the rise and fall of coalitions, the coming of age of young lions and the introduction of new cubs, and the ebb and flow of territory things certainly change. One thing that is for sure is that these lions are impressive in their own right and we are fortunate enough to observe them as they face the constantly shifting dynamics.
Time will certainly tell what the future holds…
Happy World Lion Day!