For the past couple of months, we have been monitoring our resident prides, keeping a close eye on their territorial movements, composition (including territorial males), and presence of young cubs or lack thereof. Some of the more regularly seen prides are the Shishangaan Pride, the Mananga Pride and the Mountain Pride.
The Mountain Pride has been a constant presence on our property maintaining their strong hold in Singita dating back to before the lodge was opened in 2003 (over 17 years and counting). We experienced a change of dominant males over the past years, which is to be expected as dominant males can only keep a stronghold on a pride for two to six years, on average. We have witnessed other prides coming in and out of the property trying to take over their territory but none of them have been successful. The Shish males, which consist of a coalition of three, are the current dominant males to this pride of lions, and have been for a while. We have however noticed that they have spread themselves out between the Mountain Pride and Mananga Pride and have been spending a lot of their time away from the concession. This has allowed nomadic males to sneak into their territory.
One morning we went out tracking and found eight members of the Mountain Pride with full bellies. When we left them we then located four nomadic males feeding on a buffalo kill and a single dead Mountain Pride cub about five meters away from the feeding site. We believe the Mountain Pride killed the buffalo and the nomadic males stole it from them, and in the absence of their territorial males (Shish Males) they were also able to kill one of the cubs.
Despite the loss of their little pride member, the Mountain Pride numbers are stronger than ever because before the national lockdown in March, the Mountain Pride consisted of around seven individuals (excluding the dominant males) and have, over the period of eight months, doubled their number to fifteen (now fourteen).
It will be interesting to see what chain of events are going unravel with the presence of these four nomadic males and the Shish males. The intruders do have numbers on their side but will they have the experience to outcompete the Shish males? Something that counts against the Shish males is that, as a result of their large territory and number of prides that they are dominant over, they have split up and are defending their territory separately. The two “brothers” are moving together and the other (Xihamham) moves alone which further weakens them if confronted by these four males together. We are looking forward to viewing what will become of the male lion dynamics.
Cover image: Members of the Mountain Pride a week before the nomadic males arrived. Picture by: Solomon Ndlovu