The lions were picked up again later that afternoon with Solo in hot pursuit of the Kruger male but stopped when the Kruger male decided to turn and face his aggressor. The Kruger male started to scent mark next to the road in a statement of intent. Solo went straight to this bush and sprayed over the exact same bush to remark and potentially confirm his plans to take over the Kruger male’s territory.
For a while we lost the 2 protagonists as they went through a particularly dense patch of vegetation but soon after we able to relocate them. We came across Solo defecating on the road and then rubbing it over his cheeks, a technique we presume would make his scent smell stronger when rubbing his face against bushes, in addition to the glands on the side his face. Solo then continued to pursue the Kruger male but after a while the Kruger male decided to up the ante. He turned to face Solo with a stare of immense power and authority. This stare caused Solo to think twice and for the first time during the confrontation, seemed to doubt his chances. After watching the Kruger male flee from him earlier, his confidence was high but this was the first sign of menace from the dominant male. I got the impression that for the first time, Solo realised that this situation was very real and balanced on a knife’s edge!
He turned away, and with the roles reversed from this morning’s encounter, the Kruger male stamped his authority. He started to chase Solo, but only for about 50m before both settled and eyed each other from a safe distance. It was like 2 fighters feeling themselves out in round 1 of a title fight! As they stared each other down, Solo was contact calling in what seemed to be a call to arms to the less dominant Eyrefield male who was chased by the Kruger male earlier in the day (see previous blog). Maybe Solo had realised that now was not the time to engage and that he was more assured of a victory if he could rally his lost brother in arms. Both cats were extremely tired from the endurance effort and took this time to rest less than 30m from each other but neither of them willing to make the move.
The Kruger male then decided to continue marking his territory followed closely by Solo who was making every effort to cover the Kruger male’s scent by marking over every bush he came in contact with. Mother Nature dealt the Kruger male a helping hand by sending down large volumes of rain which washed away his scent causing Solo to become disorientated as to his whereabouts. The Kruger male then put some distance between them and eventually disappeared out of Solo’s sight. Solo decided to take the opportunity to take a breather and was content rest close to the airstrip but continued roaring periodically safe in the knowledge that the Kruger male would hear his war cries.
For the remainder of the evening, both parties seemed content to rest. Lions after all sleep on average 20 hours a day and they had been engaged in this psychological warfare now for the entire day. Should they come to blows at some point, physical conditioning would be paramount. That seemed to be it for that evening’s chapter and the rangers left both protagonists sleeping with one eye open but no more than 300m apart. Yesterday morning, there was no sign of the Kruger male but Solo and the Eyrefield male were found together once more. During the night, it seems as Solo had abandoned his offensive and chosen, perhaps wisely, to re-establish contact with his partner in crime. Both these males were found sleeping early on and by the end of the evening had barely moved, no doubt recovering from the ordeal of the previous 24 hours. Neither of the males bore any signs of a fight and so we are still no closer in establishing what might become of this saga! This morning, nothing seemed to have changed. Solo and his companion were located again, with the Kruger male somewhere close by in our neighbouring property but roaring a warning to his challengers still.
Throughout all of this the Southern Pride has been absent. The lone female that was seen mating with Solo slipped away from the conflict and has not been seen since. The pride is still split and tracks were found for 2 or 3 of the females and the sub adults, but we were unable to locate their whereabouts. There has been a huge amount of speculation as to what will happen, but it seems that the males are still feeling each other out. The inexperience of the 2 newcomers and the reluctance of the Kruger male to engage against greater numbers seems to be cancelling each other out for now at least. Some are suggesting that the 3 might form a coalition: Solo has managed to infiltrate a pride before after all… But the might of the Southern Pride females may have something to say about that! They will protect their cubs and Mandleve and her counterparts showed during the Kruger males’ take over that they are quite capable of defending their own. A part of me wonders if the Kruger male is waiting for them to do his dirty work for him! With the pride split however and the imminent departure of the 4 sub adult males, things are still very much up in the air!
We will pass on any new news as it happens!