this! is! sparta!

Ok, so the line from 300 might be a little cheesy or perhaps even lost on some of you but the parallels are rather relevant at the moment. The dynamics of the lion population at Sabi Sabi has been crying out for change of late. The epic nature of the Southern Pride’s reign has limited the movements of the other prides in the area for many years now. They have in fact been responsible for reducing the neighbouring Charleston pride to just 1 lone female and her 2 sub adults only last year. In keeping with the title of the blog, they are the equivalent of the Persians, conquering all before them, under the guidance of their king, Xerxes. Xerxes was one man, whose confidence and success in battle was mainly due to the fearsome nature of his loyal 150,000 strong army. In the microcosm that is Sabi Sabi, the Kruger male has been able to expand and more importantly, hold his territory thanks to the unstoppable force that is the mighty Southern Super Pride. A pride of 18 lions is a fearsome unit and thus far has ruled the southern Sabi Sands with unwavering ferocity.

kruger male lion at Sabi Sabi

kruger male lion at Sabi Sabi

However, in recent weeks, the area has seen the arrival of 2 new players. The Sparta males from the east have been launching forays deeper and deeper into the Southern Pride’s territory. An interesting coalition consisting of 2 unrelated males, one a magnificent male in his prime, the other a young warrior, fast maturing into a supreme specimen, the Sparta males seem to mean business. The growing strength and confidence of the younger male has no doubt sparked this latest activity. He seems to be exerting dominance over his elder partner and his desire for a territory of his own is obvious. When the pair are on the move, it is always the younger that takes the lead. Youthful exuberance and fearlessness seems to be driving the pair to confrontation, with the elder member being swept up in the occasion.

solo male lion from sparta at Sabi Sabi private Game Reserve

Spartans at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

Spartans at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

For the lone Kruger male, this invasion could spell disaster for his reign as experience can only account for so much. After a while, the math becomes self-explanatory: in a 2 vs. 1 confrontation, the mighty Kruger male’s match may well be met. However, the Kruger male has not been king for nearly 2 years without his share of cunning. Since the arrival of the Spartans, he has not left the side of the pride, safe in the knowledge that even with 2 males hunting him down, the protection of Mandleve and the other 6 females is invaluable.

mandleve floppy ear of the southern pride

Southern Pride lioness

Southern Pride lioness

The Spartans must rely on a divide and conquer strategy to survive. If they can separate the Kruger male from his battalions, they stand a good chance of taking over the prime territory of the Southern Pride and the rich breeding opportunity the females present. During the past weeks, the Spartans have ventured deep into the pride’s home and have been heard roaring and scent marking – an unmistakable challenge to the current king. The bold nature of the takeover bid matches the self-confidence shown by King Leonidas’ small, but elite, fighting force to hold the Persian hoards at bay against all odds. However, if and when the 2 armies meet, the spectacle promises to be far more explosive than Hollywood can convey! The Spartans must rely on cunningness to succeed and timing is key. The Southern Pride are master tacticians however and have continued to avoid the advancing Spartans. Their ploy of unity has caused trepidation amongst the Spartans. The sound of the Kruger male’s battle cry in tandem with 7 adult females and 6, more than competent, sub-adults has caused the Spartans to retreat for now. They are still inside the territorial boundary but seem to buying time to work out their strategy. No victory will be forthcoming against greater numbers with rash decisions.

Sparta lions

Sparta lions at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

Sparta lions at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

What promises to play out soon within the battle ground of Sabi Sabi is all out war. Should the Spartans succeed in usurping the Kruger male, it will bring about a fascinating twist in our dynamics. The 4 sub adult males will be chased away for certain and the fate of the 4 cubs, losing the protection of their father, will be a foregone conclusion. Or will it? The Southern Pride has proved time and time again that the females are a formidable force even without the presence of a male. For those of you that are unaware, the 6 sub adults in the pride are no relation to the Kruger male. When he and his now deceased brother took control of the area some 2 years ago, they tried in vain to eradicate the genetics of its former rulers. The cunningness and strength of the females eventually culminated in them adopting the 6 cubs and raising them as their own. This is highly unusual in the harsh world of lion population dynamics and proved beyond all doubt that these females are not to be underestimated. Perhaps the same thing will happen this time around? After all, the Spartan army managed to continue to defy the odds despite the loss of King Leonidas at the hands of the Persians… Perhaps the pride will split? Perhaps the Kruger male will form a coalition with the 4 sub adult males? The possibilities in the infinity choices of nature are fascinating and we wait with baited breath for the outcome of the mighty battle that is soon sure to rage.

by: Ben Coley (Bush Lodge Ranger)
images by: Simon Smit and Ben Coley


  1. jason says

    great blog Ben, have the 2 sides met at all over the past couple of weeks and what physical role do you think the 4 sub males would play if a takeover attempt happened?

  2. juan jose rubio coque says

    Thank you for the great blog Ben. Whatever it happens in the future I hope it will be the best for lion population in Sabi Sand. If a takeover must happen I hope the casualties will be the least possible

    • william will says

      Sorry about the post about the kruger male getting killed. I used someone else’s name, which is a bad habit of mine. I would love to see solo and cleo and the knp male team up and chase the Manji’s out of the sabi sands and rule it all.


  3. mj says

    Thank you for the riveting story! I would hope that the Kruger male would find a way to leave with the sub-adult coalition.. He would be a good teacher for them.
    But the bush is not one to listen to the wishes of us mere humans.
    If it is to be the end, make it swift.. He will always be a warrior!

  4. amy says

    Please keep us posted! I too hope that there can be a peaceful resolution (break away with the young males or the pride split) but know that it just has to play out – hopefully with few casualties.

  5. birdie hunter says

    I got tense just reading this so heaven knows what it would be like to witness a meeting between the 2 sides! Perhaps the showdown can be saved till your mother is there in 2 weeks time!!

  6. amy says

    Do you happen to know if the two new males are the same ones that londolozi refers to as Solo (the original tailless is his mother) and the young sparta male?

  7. ana cláudia says

    Eu acho que tem a possibilidade do macho Kruger se juntar com os 4 sub-adultos; ou talvez não. Mas como foi que o outro macho Kruger morreu?

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