Having watched the Mapogo lion coalition reign as the dominant force over the past few years, it has been hard to imagine a time when their power would wane. Yet despite their strength in numbers, we have seen the once strong 6 male coalition dwindle to only three battle scarred males.
Looking at their faces, you can see the scars and each one tells of battles either won or lost. Once born to a pride, a male lions has about three years of grace until he is driven out by the pride females. Often he has to forge out an existence on his own but occasionally he is able to join up with his brothers and cousins from the same pride. One such coalition has formed to the east.
They are called the Southern Males and there are four in the group. They spend much of their time in the east but recently they have been actively defending and marking the western perimeter of their territory. This area falls in the territory of the Mapogos.
We hadn’t seen the Mapogos for a few days and heard that they had killed a young buffalo bull just east of our traversing. One evening, the Southern Males began a territorial patrol from the north sending them straight in the path of the older coalition. The action must have happened late in the night because on the following morning the Southern Males were seen relaxing on their western boundary, not far from where the Mapogos had been enjoying their feast. Later on, two of the Mapogos were sighted walking deeper into their western territory with full bellies from their buffalo kill. They didn’t seem like they had suffered any injuries but then we found the third male.
He had fresh puncture wounds on his back as well as parallel gashes on his rump where a claw had racked down his back. Judging by the wounds, we think that this male must have been caught alone when the other two had moved off possibly to drink some water. Without the backing of his brothers, he must have made a hasty escape as the four males bore down of him. As these four Southern Males come into their prime, it will become harder for the Mapogos to hold onto their territory, including the cubs that still remain vulnerable to a pride takeover.
It proves to be interesting times on safari at Ulusaba with the balance of power shifting in the lion prides. It remains to be seen if the Mapogo will meet their new rivals in full force and decide once and for all who reigns supreme. We all wait in anticipation and will keep you informed.
Phillip Andrew and the Ranger and Tracker team