If there was just one theme that I could apply to this week it would be “lion politics”. The area around Tanda Tula Safari Camphas also been a very contentious place for the lion prides in general and over the last 4 years. I have seen things change just about every 6 months!
When I first started my career at Tanda Tula, the famous Machaton Pride was still very much the dominant force within the area. This pride was regarded, at the time, as one of the longest commercially viewed prides in all of southern Africa. However, even the mightiest of bloodlines comes to an end and shortly after starting here, I got to witness the dismantling of this pride as two young males moved into the area and all but wiped out the pride. Firstly by chasing Mobundi, the large male out of the area, and then quickly killing off the rest of the group.
It was, what felt like, the longest period of searching to find lions, but slowly the cats started to move back into the area. First it was the Ross females, then it was Zebenine females, followed by the Myanbula Pride and lastly, and currently, the River Pride. This movement in and out of the area from the lionesses was bound to attract some male lions, then eventually the Mbiri males entered the scene. If you have been following our blogs for some time, you will know all about these strong, dominant lions.
Needless to say, even the Mbiri males seem to have up and left the area almost completely. I suspect this was done in a bid to protect the Myanbula Pride along with their 10 cubs. A strategy that has definitely paid off as all 10 cubs are still alive and well, but it came at the cost of ceding a large portion of their territory to a new collation, a group of three younger males known as the Nharhu males.
Many people don’t realise that lionesses are also very territorial in nature and as soon as an area becomes void of a pride, a new one will sooner or later move in. That’s exactly what happened when the Myanbula Pride moved south with the Mbiri males, the River Pride was very quick to act on this and colonised the area almost immediately. In fact, they are currently denning with cubs of their own in the exact same place as the Myanbula females once denned themselves. Of course, these new cubs are fathered by the Nharhu males.
Further to the south and west of us, there is also a changing dynamic within the lion prides. This particular area has also seen its fair share of politicking. However, the pride that has always been found in this area, known as the Giraffe Pride, is still the resident pride, but they have gone through some major changes. For those of you that don’t know the history, this is the pride that once housed the 2 white lionesses! Initially, they were covered by the Trilogy males, a coalition of (yip you got it), 3 large males. All dynasties come to an end though and one by one the Trilogies were dismantled by the Mapoza males. During this change in power, we sadly lost one of the white lionesses when she tried to stand her ground against the approaching Mapoza males over a buffalo carcass. Even sadder still, is that the second white lioness was killed shortly afterwards when she came off second best during a buffalo hunt. The Mapoza’s rule over this pride didn’t last long though, and they were soon superseded by the large and gorgeous male known as the Black Dam male.
The Black Dam male originated from the Thornybush Game Reserve in the west, where he had all but ruled over the reserve for the majority of his life, producing cubs with the females whenever he could. However, no one can be in power forever, and now it is those very cubs that he once produced, maybe 3 or 4 years ago in the Thornybush Reserve, that are starting to throw their colossal weight around. So, while the Black Dam male still has experience and size on his side, it is only a matter of time before his sons catch up to him. Over the last week these two boys, known as the Monwana males, have been tracking him down and pushing him further and further into his territory. While the Black Dam Male is big and confident, he is also not lacking intellect and he would rather try find a way to separate himself from these two boys and see them off one by one. On the other hand, we may well be witnessing the slow formation of a new coalition, which in rare cases like this, does occur from time to time.
It was a very interesting week watching the interaction between these three males, with the Black Dam Male, at first, running away from the two youngsters. However, we were lucky enough to be with him at the exact moment where he regained his confidence and crossed into the territory of the sizeable Giraffe Pride. With the knowledge of having a group of lionesses that would back him up, if need be, he began to stand his ground and roar. He even went so far as to turn around and look for the Monwana males. This definitely had an effect on the two boys as shortly after that, the morning’s warmongering came to a peaceful end with all three male lions falling asleep not more than 200m meters apart. Well either that, or lions being lions, they just decided to have a nap.
We will keep you all updated on the movement of the lion populations within the Timbavatiover the next few weeks, as once again, there is a definite stirring of the dynamics!
Oh, by the way, we did also have the pleasure of encountering many other animal species this week. Just in case you were wondering if the lions had finished them all off!
Until next time, happy snapping,