May 2021

The one and only Othawa Male

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The one and only Othawa Male

It is with a heavy heart that we have all but confirmed the passing of the infamous Othawa male lion.

Coming from Lebombo and Sweni where I spent over five years in arguably the best lion viewing area in southern Africa I never imagined I would enjoy seeing and watching a lion develop as much as I did the Othawa male over the past three and a half years. It has been nothing short of amazing to watch him from a young male just venturing out on his own really trying not to draw too much attention to himself, to a completely confident and dominant male lion on patrol. 

I have always been under the belief that a dominant male lion should have a huge scar across his face, be missing half an ear and wear a scuffed up mane… simply mementos of what it takes to be the king out here. But the Othawa male was, to put it simply, PRIME! He was probably one of the best looking lions that I have ever seen.

The unfortunate thing for him is the fact that he has come from a ‘smaller’ pride and that he missed a brother or two to help him on his journey. But as it turned out he did more than alright all by himself. He actually, by chance, became the dominant male with the Mhangeni Pride from a very young age (roughly four years old) and fathered two different sets of cubs with these females over the past few years.  

Unfortunately for him, he was venturing further and further east in what was an attempt to grow his territory and potentially challenge others lions, venturing a little too far into an area controlled by the two Birmingham males. We always knew some sort of confrontation would take place but honestly had no idea how it would turn out. Although they would be considered past their prime, with their combination of experience and numbers he didn’t really stand a fair chance by himself. We will never know what exactly happened, but with both prides having new cubs at the moment this could have heightened the tension and upped the ante for both sides. 

His carcass was only discovered three days after the attack and was initially thought to be one of the Birmingham males, but after closer inspection of the dental structure (and the Birmingham males have been seen since) it has been confirmed as him.

As sad as it is I feel very fortunate to have spent as much time with him as I did. From my first sighting directly in front of the lodges as a young male, to my last with his most recent cubs at his side. 

He will be sadly missed by all of us here.

Nick du Plessis
By Nick du Plessis
Field Guide