To the victor the spoils

Sabi Sand | October 2016

Throughout history endless battles and wars have taken place over territories rich in resources across the world’s vast continents. A myriad of species of animals, plants and man have crossed swords, claws, talons and teeth. Fights that have claimed many lives and left the survivors with many scars, hard earned badges to display their prowess and fighting skill to any rivals or challengers. Stronger champions holding better fortresses and allowing their offspring a better chance at thriving in a world where over ninety-nine percent of all the species that have graced the earth’s land and seas have been and gone.

In this month’s journal I would like to showcase how a particular pride of lions’ ability to hold a prime territory has allowed them to survive and ultimately flourish in one of the harshest droughts in living memory. The Mhangene pride has held a massive territory in the central part of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve for many years. Their kingdom encompasses a very large part of Singita Sabi Sands and has access to one of the most important elements to life on earth, namely water. This in the form of the Sand River which flows throughout their territory bringing a much needed oasis in the form of a green serpentine, riverine belt, that provides sustenance to many of the lions prey species.

This river becomes even more important in winter when a lot of the temporary pans and watering holes filled by summer rains, have dried up and left only cracked soils in their wake. In times like this the remaining herbivores tend to congregate around the lusher vegetation and dwindling waters along the river’s edges and this is something that the Mhangene pride has learnt to take advantage of. Four adult lionesses form the core of this pride, that has swelled to sixteen individuals in the last six months and the timing of these cubs could not have been better for the pride, as a harsh winter came to bear across the lowveld of South Africa. Buffaloes that have been weakened by months of poor grazing are ripe for the picking as these skilled hunters ply their trade along a particular stretch of river that has seen its sands stained red. The unfortunate buffalo lured in by water and potential grazing provided by reseeding river waters have borne the brunt of the lions’ hunting efforts in the last two months, and have provided a food source so reliable that many of the area’s scavengers are satiated to the point that carcasses adorn the ground like features of a barren landscape.