We often talk about the constant ebb and flow of the natural world and in particular, the dynamics of both the fauna and flora here at Londolozi. Over the last few weeks, one could argue that the flow has turned into a rather forceful push. In the quiet of the night, a young, powerful male lion in his prime has snuck onto the reserve and seems to be here to stay. Now, every night as we sit around the fire in the boma, the silence of the night is punctuated by his bellowing roar. Many a morning his deafening calls drive our excitement levels through the roof as we eagerly try to find him.
He is laying down the challenge, one he appears to have geared himself up for and isn’t backing down, and one we are watching with awe.
Who is this Male?
A young and very impressive male known as the Skorro Breakaway Male or the Skorro Young Male. Born into and therefore originating from the Skorro Pride in the northern parts of the Timbavati Game Reserve (close to 100km north of us). From what we have been able to piece together, he was born in 2017 and is believed to have been sired by the two Orpen Males. Upon reaching maturity he left the pride alongside a slightly younger male littermate and two sisters/female littermates and one adult female. It is believed that the brother was killed by the Mbiri Males, one sister disappeared and the other along with the adult female then rejoined the Skorro Pride, leaving this male to roam south into the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve alone in search of a territory of his own.
This is by far an oversimplification of the process, with trials and tribulations around every corner during these nomadic years (more on this later) as is evident by the loss of his younger brother to the two Mbiri Males. He has now arrived at Londolozi in June 2023, and seems to have found some “not-so-vacant” territory, he is intent on claiming this as his own.
My First Meeting
Having been seen by some of the ranging team early on in the week, there was quite the stir on reserve as we discussed and endeavoured to find out who this male was, and what the possibilities for him are. My first time seeing this male comes in a two-part story. Having the morning off, I was working as the Standby ranger, and listening to the radio from the warmth of my room I was piecing together the puzzle from broken radio messages. Ranger Tayla Brown was following this unidentified male deep into the Sand River, and needless to say, I got the radio message that both the Standby vehicle and a tow rope were needed (I digress, that’s not my story to tell, but I’ll leave this link to the Pink Pouch here for those interested)
The very next morning, I now had guests and while we all sat at the top of a crest near the camp, listening to the bush come alive as the first golden rays of sunrise broke over the horizon, he lay down his challenge with a loud bounding roar. Swiftly into action, we headed towards his call south of the Sand River, and needless to say, I was blown away. Having had a brief glimpse through the reeds of the river while attaching a tow rope the day before, this was my first true sighting of him. And he did not disappoint, as were treated to a magical sighting of an impressive male lion on the move. There is something sinister about a lion on the move with a motive. For the full story of the morning watch Sean‘s Virtual Safari here.
Motives and Movements
What blew a lot of us away, so in Sean’s Virtual Safari, it is evident that the Skorro Young Male is chased away out of this territory, but no one was sure exactly how far he had run. Sean thought that in between the calls of the Black Dam Males he could hear softer calls coming from towards where the Skorro Young Male had originally come from, hinting at maybe he had initially run to get away from the threat, but then turned and looped back on himself. A very smart move and shows that he could be looking to stick around and fight for this territory. Or maybe there was something else on his mind! Within 24 hours of being chased by the Black Dam Males he was found with a Talamati Lioness mating no further than 800m from where the altercation went down. A very bold and intimidating move. He was seen in her company for three days before they split up. Since then he has been seen moving around and scent-marking, proving to us that he doesn’t intend on giving way to the Black Dam Males.
I mentioned that the territory was not so vacant, since the arrival of the Black Dam Males, they seemed to have moved in there and could be said to control it with the Plains Camp Males being found a bit further west of that. The Skorro Young Male has also taken advantage of this questionably vacant territory. I say this because we can’t say it is completely dominated by and firmly under the control of the Black Dam Males. So by the Skorro Young Male now kicking up a fuss, he is bound to be met by a number of challenges, and this small section of lion real estate is bordered by the formidable Plains Camp Males to the west and the Ndzhenga Males to the east. The Talamati Young Males venture through the area, and the last Northern Avoca Male still resides in the north. We definitely cannot forget the four Ntsevu Breakaway Males (who seem to have doubled in size and confidence over the last month) south of this.
So it is safe to say that the lion dynamics are on a knife-edge currently and anything could happen in the coming weeks.
Being a lone male, the challenges ahead are not insurmountable, yet they are no walk in the park. The Skorro male has a mountain to climb, but with his confidence and size, there is no doubt he will put up a fight. The ever-changing lion dynamics of Londolozi will certainly be exciting to watch over the next few months, and we will keep you updated with what happens next.