The Tsalala Pride has defied the odds once again. This time, the last standing Tsalala Lioness has reached the one-year milestone since she lost her mother in November last year. For a solo lioness, this is no easy feat and being a young inexperienced lioness she has certainly kept us happy as she continues to uphold the legacy of the Tsalala pride. So in a tribute to the Tsalala Pride and the indomitable spirit of the current Tsalala Lioness, I thought I would share some of the highlights over the last year and some insight into what we might expect in the year ahead.
My personal favourite sighting of the Tsalala Female was just a few weeks ago in October when we found her during our morning drive. We had heard lions calling in the early hours of the morning in the northern section of the reserve around the Manyelethi River. Just when we started to think things weren’t going to be in our favour as tracks of two male lions that we were following crossed over our northern boundary, there was a sudden change in events.
We spotted the Tsalala Lioness walking over the boundary towards us. It’s hard to tell if she had been following the calls of the males or looking to avoid them. Either way, she kept us bouncing off the edge of our seats as we tried to keep up with her as she steadily walked across small ravines and through a thicket of bushwillow trees.
We had briefly lost sight of her in a thicket of vegetation, so ranger Keagan Chasenski and I headed off in different directions eager to track her down again on the other side. At this point, I must pause and say it still baffles me how quickly things can change or happen out here.
Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me on this particular game drive and so I never managed to capture what unfolded next.
The radio crackled with Keagan’s voice behind it, informing me that within the two or so minutes that we had lost view of her, she had caught a zebra and was in the process of bringing it down. I am sure she must have stumbled upon the zebra and all the factors were in her favour giving her the opportunity to catch it at such short notice.
We were overwhelmed by what was unfolding before us. Witnessing a predator making a kill is simply something quite extraordinary and as always mentioned, not for the faint-hearted. Yet no matter how you feel, you still end up being captivated by witnessing this circle of life. Having explained the legacy of the Tsalala pride to my guests, they could then also recognise the significance of what this particular kill meant for a solo lioness defying the odds.
The Tsalala lioness is always a lioness that always embodies strength, determination, and the willingness to survive.
As in the story above, the Tsalala Lioness has adapted her hunting strategy to suit her independent lifestyle, allowing us to be fortunate enough to witness several unique sightings where she has been hunting or moving around actively during the day. The rest of the ranging team and I’m sure the guests who were there at the time, as well as any blog readers, will all agree that the sighting of the Tsalala female attempting to steal a kill from the Senegal Bush Male has also been a highlight.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
I could also easily mention each specific sighting but to be honest there has always just been a sense of excitement and a sigh of relief each time she had been spotted knowing that she was still going strong over the last year.
The latest update
Following on from Kirst Joscelyne’s blog where hopes were high when one of the older original Mhangeni Lionesses was seen with the Tsalala Female. This duo, unfortunately, didn’t last as long as we had hoped. After spending nearly two months together they were last seen together in late September when things were no longer as friendly between the two as the Mhangeni Lioness fed on an impala kill whilst keeping the Tsalala Lioness at bay, not willing to share her meal. While we were rooting for the Tsalala Pride to become two once more or even speculating about the possibility of the Tsalala lioness being accepted into the Mhangeni Pride, this it seems was not to be.
The two had been immensely affectionate and close while they were together however it is believed that the Mhangeni Lioness is in fact pregnant after her mating bouts with the Plains Camp Males. She has now rejoined the Mhangeni Pride and left the Tsalala Female behind by herself once again.
So what’s next?
While I’m sure the Tsalala Lioness would have enjoyed the companionship of the Mhangeni Lioness, she is back on her own and still thriving. While there is no doubt that she will have many challenges ahead, with each sighting of her also comes new hope and of course speculations.
The latest includes the possibility of her joining up with the two Ntsevu lioness and their two cubs that have broken away from the Ntsevu pride. Or could it even be possible for her to form a new pride with the single Ntsevu subadult lioness that is still moving around with her four young Ntsevu Males? All of which are distant relatives to her in one way or another.
The speculation here is whether they will look to integrate back with the Ntsevu Pride, currently dominated by the Ndzhenga Males or will they form a new pride? And how would they tolerate the Tsalala Lioness if they happened to cross paths?
What we can agree on is that if she hasn’t already come into oestrus at the age of three years and 8 months, it is only a matter of time before she does. The only question here is who is likely to sire her first litter of cubs? Will it be one of the Ndzhenga Males, the Plains Camps males, or possibly even the Northern Avoca Males? Some say it might even be the Nkuhuma Male that has now been seen regularly with the Birmingham Male – who is quite possibly the father of both these lions. But we will save the story on genetic diversity for another day. Come what may, we will be keeping as close an eye as nature will allow over them over the next few months!
I agree Gawie! We will certainly be keep a close eye and keep you updated.