The Skukuza male’s head dipped slightly as he lay in the grass, his eyes closed. He was taking a short rest after an intense morning. This is when Solo, lying only 30 meters away, quietly stood up. Not to approach the young, unfamiliar male but to back away and settle in the shade of a Guarri bush. At the sound of movement the Skukuza male’s eyes opened and glistened at the sight of the larger male making his retreat. This was only the beginning of a morning of momentum shifts.
He stood up and stretched, and then with his head held low and ears pricked forward, approached the thick grass that Solo was in. He walked slowly but steadily with an air of uneasy confidence. Solo rose from the grass unsure of the youngster’s advances. The two of them stood there, neither of the males committed to a fight but neither were too eager to back down. Solo was the first to turn his back and open up more of a gap between the two. The Skukuza male followed and didn’t let him get too far.
They walked slowly at first, watching every move the other male made. As the bush thickened we lost Solo in a small ravine but it seemed as if the Skukuza male knew where he was, his head held constantly to the left as the walk became a march. The mood seemed to intensify with every meter, they were now approaching an open area where all would be revealed. As the young male broke out of the tree line and onto the open area, Solo broke into a jog. His mane was thrown back with every stride. We looped around with the vehicle to try get onto the open area where Solo was heading.
As Solo emerged from the tree line, the Skukuza male was waiting, staring in his direction, standing motionless. Solo turned and scent marked keeping eye contact with the young male. Unfazed, the Skukuza male lifted his head and started walking slowly away from Solo and into the open area, away from any cover. The two males walked in the same direction as the gap slowly widened. They would later settle about two hundred meters apart staring at one another. After about 45 minutes the Skukuza male got up and continued his march east.
Was he off to find his brothers and come back and finish what he had started? Solo had an opportunity to enforce dominance and show some real intent on taking over a piece of the southern Sabi Sands. The male lion dynamics continue to confuse and leave us all wondering. In the short time the Skukuza males have been around they have shown a fair bit of interest whereas Solo and the Eyrefield male still seem fairly nomadic.
BY: SIMON SMIT (BUSH LODGE RANGER)