The dynamics of the lion population took an interesting turn a couple of days ago: 2 unknown males were spotted in the east of our reserve sleeping through the heat of the day. Although identification was difficult, we could clearly see that both looked in their prime and sported magnificent manes. It looks as if these could have been the males that chased the Southern Pride off their kill a couple of weeks ago but due to the locale back then, we have no photographs to double check this information.
By the time I arrived at the sighting at dusk, the 2 males had begun to move and we watched enthralled as these sublime specimens slowly meandered through the reserve as they investigated this new area. At one point, we heard one of the males contact call and assumed that to be a message to his brother indecipherable to us, but moments later, they stopped and peered back up the road. When we shined our spotlights in the direction of their gaze, we saw a third, short maned male approaching them. Upon close inspection we could see that he was badly marked up with blood freely flowing from deep wounds along his spine and flanks. He was able to walk with no issues however and the severity of the injuries seemed to be superficial. His brothers greeted him with the usual face rubbing and a tenderness that never ceases to cause one to rethink the preconceptions of these great animals, and the 3 of them set off once again in single file.
They seemed in no mood to hunt however and alarm calls of impala and kudu echoed through the still night as they trudged silently through the reserve. Despite the injuries sustained to the third male, they were seen routinely scent marking as they went, a bold move for these new comers. Eventually they crossed right through our reserve but were heard calling later that night from close by.
Upon further investigation, we received news that these 3 lions had fled from the north of the Sabi Sands after a brutal confrontation with the notorious Majingilane coalition. According to our sources, these unknown lions had wandered into the Majingilane’s territory and had been dispatched with a level of aggression expected when rival coalitions meet. The short maned male had borne the brunt of the attack and was lucky to get away without more serious injury. It seems that the Majingilanes had done the initial damage but had not hammered home their advantage by removing him permanently from the equation. The injured male was saved from further harm though by a guardian angel elephant bull that happened to wander through the battlefield and chased away the hovering Majingilanes. The male seized this opportunity to flee the area during the commotion and meet up with his brothers!
Why the Majingilanes didn’t finish off the male remains a mystery but no one can claim to know all the intricacies of animal behaviour. Perhaps the male took a leaf out of Italian soccer and exaggerated the extent of his injuries causing the Majingilanes to think they had done enough? I cannot believe that in the cut throat world of male lion conflict that compassion was shown but we will never know. Whatever the reason, we are delighted to welcome new players into our arena and look forward to the inevitable conflicts that will arise between the Kruger male and his fearsome brides. Whether a takeover bid is forthcoming from this new coalition remains to be seen but the Kruger male will certainly have his work cut out for him. Having said that, thus far he has defied the odds by hanging on to his territory, and with the muscle of the Southern super pride behind him, his chances remain good. He has also been able to keep the remaining Mapogo at bay, although I firmly believe they have been purposely avoiding conflict and are merely seeking sanctuary in their twilight years. (For the record, they have not been seen for a while now although tracks have regularly been found close to the Sabie River).
Regardless of what transpires, the future interactions will be fascinating and it served as yet another reminder that nothing in the African bush is set in stone. Lion dynamics are forever changing and with such short life expectancies in an area of tough competition such as this, we anticipate tumultuous events to come and I look forward to keeping you all up to date as they happen!