Battle of the kings
On the night of the 12th of May, we could hear the Kumana Male roaring from within the heart of his territory. His territory currently runs from south of the N’wanetsi River and stretches to the west and south of our concession. He has fathered a few cubs to the Shishangaan Pride, who hold a territory within his range. It was just past midnight, and we could still hear his familiar roar from the lodge, but this time, something was different. His roar was answered by another male lion, that we could hear calling from the east. I decided to leave my warm bed and venture outside into the chilly autumn evening. I sat waiting on my porch, and listened as the intruder male’s roars got closer and closer.
The next morning, we found the Shishangaan Pride just north of the lodge. The Kumana male was still roaring, and moving closer to where we were sitting watching the pride. The cubs were playful, climbing and falling out of low branches, whilst the females were soaking up the morning sun.
We could see the Kumana male approaching the pride, and were anticipating a greeting ritual that most lions display when one of their members return to the pride. He stopped just short of where they were sleeping, and started roaring again. Shortly thereafter, we could hear the intruder male answering. The cubs settled down quickly, and moved towards where the females were resting. The Kumana male did not settle down with the rest of the pride, and started walking towards the N’wanetsi cliffs to meet the intruder. We decided to follow him and left the rest of the pride.
He was walking at a rapid pace, and continued roaring. We could hear the intruder male answering directly above us on top of the cliffs. The Kumana male crossed the N’wanetsi River quickly, and started moving up the cliffs on a well-used game trail. We managed to catch a glimpse of him between the riverine trees, as he stopped halfway up the trail to roar. His breath caused a cloud of vapour, as his roar bounced off the surrounding cliffs, and it looked like he was standing in amongst the clouds, as mist had gathered in the riverbed below. It was a sight to behold! We managed to drive around to the top of the cliffs, to see if we could find the two males confronting one another. The area was extremely mountainous, and we only managed to hear as they clashed and fought.
Shortly thereafter, they started roaring again, and it seemed as if they were moving north. We decided to take a break, and stopped for a cup of coffee on top of the hill, where we could scan and listen for any sign of them. Just as we finished our coffee, one of the other guides called us on the radio to announce that he had found the two males again. We quickly drove down the mountain, and found them lying a few feet apart. The intruder male started walking away, possibly due to him not being used to being in close proximity to vehicles. The Kumana Male started roaring again, as if to intimidate the intruder out of his area. We had a close look at both males, and found that the Kumana male had a big gaping wound across his face and lip. He was also limping badly, leaving a blood trail caused by an injury to his front left paw. The intruder male managed to get away with a couple of claw marks below his eye. We sat with the lions until mid-morning, to see if they would have another go at each other, but instead they settled down licking their wounds a mere ten metres apart. The next morning, we followed the Kumana’s trail, still bloody, heading south, back towards the pride. The intruder male’s tracks were found heading south-east – back towards from where he had come.
Photographs by Garry Bruce