The Tsalala Female has defied all odds and has now become a formidable huntress and although living a solitary life she appears to be thriving. However, I am sure that this lifestyle can be somewhat lonely for a social cat such as a lioness. Her typical behaviour sees her roaming through the dense riverine vegetation, keeping a low profile and almost mimicking the behaviour of a leopard and it is working. Now just over the age of four years old, she is fully sexually mature. We would expect her at some point in the near future if not already to seek out some of the dominant males moving around and hopefully try and mate. If successful this could see the Tsalala Pride grow once more with her very first litter of cubs.
Hearing the distant roars of what sounded like a lioness throughout the night and early morning, we set off with the hopes of trying to find the Tsalala Female in the northern parts of the reserve. The guests had seen this female three years prior when she was only a small cub. It was a misty morning and our view over the crests was limited so we would stop every few minutes or so to try and listen out for her roars. This would help us narrow in on where she was and help us find her.
As we turned towards the Manyelethi River, there in the road walking directly towards us was the gorgeous Tsalala Female. We were ecstatic as our search was fruitful. Within moments of finding her, she began to roar again while continuing her approach towards the vehicle. We were all in awe and could not believe how magically the morning game drive had begun, firstly, finding exactly what we had set out in search of and secondly, to have a lioness walk straight down the road towards you roaring.
She then headed down the banks of the Manyelthi River and settled in the river sand but something in the distance seemed to have caught her attention, both ears pointed in that direction. She got up and made a bee-line towards it. At this point, we could not make out what it was.
As we moved forward we could see a very large rhino bull resting in the riverbed. This is what she had seen and was set on trying to stalk as close as she could. Now bearing in mind she is a decent-sized lioness, probably weighing 120-130kg (260-290lbs) her target is probably about 2 000kgs (4500lbs). There was no way she was hunting this in the hopes of securing a meal. It was simply a game for her and possibly her seeking out some company. Thankfully for the soft river sand, she was able to stalk relatively quickly directly at the large bull. At this stage, the large ungulate was oblivious to her presence as she got closer and closer. When she reached about 20m from him, he lifted his head aware that something else was around. However, he settled again, allowing her to continue her approach.
Watch this video to see what unfolded next, it was truly astounding…
Curiosity certainly got the better of her as she stalked right into within centimetres of him. She is still a young and inquisitive lion that is probably desperate for some company and so I am sure she has many more encounters similar to this that we are simply not around to witness. I also have a sense that once she had managed to stalk all the way in, she was then unsure of her next step and what the repercussions would be. And as soon as she touched his rump it was incredible to see how quick he was to his feet and could spin around on a dime. This sent her scuttling back only to then settle. What also amazed me was that after this whole interaction, he still settled down in the same spot to rest further and this allowed her to then loop around and stalk again. Eventually, she presumably had better ideas and moved on leaving her new friend to rest in peace. What a phenomenal morning it was watching a lonely lioness attempting to make some new friends.