May 2024

A Tale of Two Prides

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A Tale of Two Prides

The lion viewing lately has been dominated by mainly the Mhangeni Pride - five adults and ten cubs of four litters; and the lone lioness of the Tsalala Pride.

Although these two prides seem so vastly different at first glance, they in fact both share the same origin and are related. In 1998 they Tsalala Pride was formed and flourished over the years and in 2013 four sisters left the pride which then became known as the Mhangeni Pride.

In 2020 it was just the Tsalala lioness and her daughter that had been ousted by the Ntsevu lionesses and two years later the oldest lioness of the pride was killed by the Nkuhuma breakaway lionesses.

Life as a lone lioness has many challenges but yet the Tsalala lioness is making it look easy. Her condition is impeccable and she always seems so composed. Perhaps learning to survive without much assistance has brought on some sense of maturity and responsibility that lions of that age wouldn’t normally need? She has her first litter of cubs stashed somewhere around Tavangumi and Millennium Koppies.

The last one left of the old Tsalala sisters, now the oldest Mhangeni female, finds herself in the last days of her life. The month of May has been hugely beneficial to her and the pride with three scavenged carcasses. After the 15 day all-you-can eat hippo meal the pride moved north.

One morning they were seen resting between Tavangumi Koppies and the river but only four adults were present and all the cubs. The oldest lioness was missing. Not for long though as she was spotted a few hundred yards back on the edge of the river course. It was obvious she no longer had it in her to keep up with the pride, and the pride knew she could not hold them back as this goes against the greater good of all the other lions. She was not alone though.

Peering from across the crystal clear Sand River the Tsalala lioness watched the desperate Mhangeni lioness struggling to even lift her head. We knew her days were numbered but we did not expect this would be the last time we would see the Mhangeni lioness.

Looking back at it now, although probably circumstantial, it was as if these two lionesses were coming together one last time, a send-off by a distant relative. For these two females, and their prides, they are both experiencing a significant moment of change. Motherhood and a life now without the guidance of their eldest female. One can’t help but feel some relatedness to situations like this. These sorts of stories are one of the reasons wildlife connects with so many people from all corners of the globe, and so it should continue to do so for the rest of time.