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As we set out on the morning safari, a heavy mist hung in the air around the base of Rock lodge. We were anxious to head south to find out what had happened with the Mapogos during the night knowing that the Southern male coalition had moved to within a kilometer of their position.
There were reports of lions calling to the south so we went in search of fresh tracks. We stopped to listen, south of Skwenga dam and heard roars and growling coming from just beyond our vision in the mist. As we turned the corner, we saw four lions running down the road away from us. We quickly realised that it was three of the Southern males pursuing one of the Mapogos! They crossed the drainage line feeding Skwenga dam and a within a hundred meters the males had caught up with the Mapogo.
We saw that it was the male with the deep cut on his right nostril. What happened next was absolutely incredible, the Mogogo turned to face his aggressors. The three younger males slowly circled him and then the attack began as one launched on his flank, sinking his teeth into his spine just above the tail. The other two attacked his head while another aimed bites at his belly.
After intense seconds of fury, the attack broke off as the three regrouped. As they rested, the three Southern males planned their next attack as the Mapogo stood holding his ground. The attacks grew more and more aggressive as the males targeted the spine of the Mapogo.
We witnessed three such attacks in just 15 minutes. The fighting took place over most of the morning and after a while, the fourth male joined in adding his strength. This proved too much for the Mapogo and after several attacks, the lions succeeded in severing his spine. Without the use of his legs and suffering from a bad head injury, the Mapogo was left to succumb to his wounds as the Southern males walked off. Why did he have to face them alone? Where are the other two Mapogo? We later learnt that they had beat a hasty retreat to the east as their brother was left to flee before the might of the four younger and stronger males.
The story is not over but we all believe the end has been written for the Mapogos, they will soon have to face these four males if they want to keep their territory along with their cubs.
After watching this male grow over the past few years, I trust his courage and strength are reflected in these photos and that his spirit will be remembered by all who have had the privilege of seeing him while on safari at Ulusaba.
Phillip Andrew and the Ranger and Tracker team
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