Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

southern pride standoff

by Richard de Gouveia on March 18, 2012

What a way to start the cycle…we have found little leopard cubs and to top it all off, we have had the pleasure of watching the Southern Pride on a buffalo kill. Due to the fact that there are 2 females that are pregnant they have been leaving the pride to search out good den sites for the cubs and on my first morning back the 2 females had managed to pull down a big buffalo bull. It took only about 24 hours for the rest of the pride, including the Kruger males to find the other females and the buffalo and I can imagine that when they found it there must have been a good fight for places at the dinner table.

Southern Pride on buff kill at sabi sabi private game reserve

For the next 2 days we watched as the buffalo disappeared and the 18 lions were scattered around digesting their big meal. The Kruger males had taken control over the last scraps and after viewing them in the evening I was sure that they would move off by morning. My guests wanted to see some hyena, so first thing the next morning, I made my way to the kill site expecting to find the hyenas and vultures cleaning up after the lions. However there was a big surprise in store for us.

vulture while on safari game drive at sabi sabi

As we pulled in, all the lions were still there and the males were still picking scraps from the carcass with the rest of the pride looking for a way in to get a piece of what was left. This was going to be more difficult than they hoped because the males were throwing their weight around.

Southern Pride on buff kill while on safari game drive at sabi sabi

Southern Pride on buff kill at Sabi Sabi while on safari game drive

The two males hovered over the carcass and at any sign of advance from the others, chased them all off in different directions. Eventually one of the males gave up and decided to check if any of the females were in oestrus and started to sniff the females and then flehmen. Flehmen is the term given to the use of an organ situated on the palate called the organ of Jacobson. This organ is used to check hormonal levels allowing the males to know when the females are in heat. In order to use this gland they must pull their lips back exposing their teeth to open the gland and then hold this flehmen grimace whilst they analyse the scents.

Southern Pride on buff kill at Sabi Sabi

The other male stayed over the kill defending it as much as possible. One of the cubs came a little close at one stage and was very swiftly dealt with. But the second time the cub came close, the male launched into him but the once fragile cub came back at the male…the cubs are now over a year old and are starting to show that they are something to be reckoned with. The noises and constant charges of the males were just incredible to see and seeing the cubs moving into adolescence is just fantastic!

 by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

frank March 18, 2012 at 9:32 am

Thats brilliant and good to see the two males integrated in the pride.
We watch regularly even if we dont write. Tnank you and please keep them coming,Frank


matt March 18, 2012 at 9:49 am

What an incredible scene… even 6 months later still wishing I was there.

I thought it might be interesting to know that Sabi Sabi (Earth Lodge) got a very good review in the Sydney Morning Herald. It brought all the memories rushing back.


ranger rich March 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thanks Matt! Really nice to hear about the good reviews! Hopefully all those good memories will bring u back to visit us soon!


matt March 20, 2012 at 5:10 am

I hope so too… but even if not I still read the blog to get my fix of the African bush.


ranger rich March 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I am glad you enjoying that much! Thank you


ranger rich March 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

Thanks for the comment Frank! It is great to hear that you are enjoying our content! It is only a pleasure to be able to share our piece of Africa with the world!


jody morrison March 18, 2012 at 10:45 am

Wonderful to see that the cubs are doing so well. Thank you for such great video and for your words as well. Super to be a part of the bush even though I’m far away


ranger rich March 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Thank you so much Jody! Really glad I can bring people closer to the bush!


dr. marc c saulnier March 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm

What a treat! The only thing I didn’t see during my time at Bush Lodge was a male lion. This sort of makes up for it ;)
Definitely going to have to make a return trip!


ranger rich March 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I am glad I could sort of make up for it Doc! We look forward to having you back here and hopefully we will show you a nice big male lion next time you come through…


samantha March 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hey guys I wanted to ask, why are the Siuthern females with Kruger males and not the southern males?


ranger rich March 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

Hi Samantha…that is a good question. I will try and explain it as best I can.

The Southern pride was originally made up of 4 females and 2 males (golf course males) and they had a litter of cubs of which 9 survived to adulthood, 5 of which were male and 4 female. The golf course males died and a new coalition (toulon males) took over the pride and chased the 5 adolescent males out of the pride to minimise competition and these 5 males became know as the Southern males. They then had to move away from the Southern pride and look for their own territory. This is natures way of ensuring that there is no inbreeding and that the genetics get mixed.

The toulon males were then chased out of their territory by the kruger males and they have now joined the Southern pride which is comprised of the original 4 females, their 4 daughters and the remaining 8 cubs who were fathered by the toulon males.

I hope this answers your question!

Have a great day!


syl March 19, 2012 at 2:51 am

Thanks Richard…always a treat to read your blogs:)


ranger rich March 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

Thanks Syl! Have a super day!


walker March 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

The Southern Pride seems to have decimated the Charlestons? Is this because the Kruger males don’t support them anymore?


ranger rich March 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

As far as i understand it, Walker, the males will defend a territory against other males. The Southern Pride has decimated the Charlestons because they need more territory. I will do a bit of reading and see whether or not the males would look after the females of a pride.


shaun kennedy March 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

we were there on march 18th to see the southern pride stand off….amazing!
thank you richard! to re-live it was a treat.


ranger rich March 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I am so glad you were there to enjoy it shaun! Seeing interaction like that is always a treat! Have a great day and come back and visit soon!


fred smart April 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Give my best to Elliot and Creamson! We were there for two nights and two days beginning 3/22 – four safaris – and stayed at the Bush Lodge. An incredible experience which we will never forget and always treasure.


chris December 13, 2013 at 6:12 am

Old blog but what ever happened to the male lion with the injured leg? That left leg looked in really bad shape.


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