WARNING : GRAPHIC VIDEOS AND IMAGES AHEAD
Ranger Nadia and her guests from Umkumbe Safari Lodge witnessed a rare and historical moment in the Sabi Sand towards the end of last week. While on out game drive, guests spotted the 6 Mhangeni Breakaway lionesses enjoying the company of the Matshipiri males. After a series of unfortunate events regarding the loss of a kill, their attitude was somber and somewhat twitchy. While this was unfolding, a lone lioness wandered over into the Mhangeni Breakaway turf and then the mayhem began.
She most certainly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Armed with an arsenal of anger and attitude, the 6 Mhangeni lionesses attacked, mauled and brutally killed the lone lioness. Below is the history, the story and the harrowing events leading up to this rather surprising event showcasing the tumultuous world of lions.
There’s speculation abound that the dead lioness is one of the older Sparta females. We have yet to formally identify the deceased lion, but we do suspect it is actually the Airfield/Airstrip female and not one of the Spartas. However, we are still speculating at this stage. Our initial reason for thinking it was one of the older Sparta’s was because they were recently on Umkumbe traverse, so it wasn’t a far stretch. A few days prior to the sighting of the duel -to-death, the Sparta lionesses were spotted. There was a huge commotion with the elephant herds close to the vehicle and it turns out that the herds were chasing the Sparta Pride lionesses and they ended up in the midst of our traverse.
The Spartas had just made a kill off of our boundary and eaten a sufficient amount to display gorged bellies. It’s clear they were displaced by the hyenas because of the whooping and cackling heard in the distance. One of the lionesses was chased up a tree by an elephant, which led us to photograph rare moments of tree climbing lions. A sight normally only reserved for the tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara National Park in the Serengeti. But here in the Sabi Sand, we defy the textbooks – one only has to look at the reign of terror of the mighty and ruthless Mapogos that ended circa 2012!
So now you can see how we made the correlation between the recently passed lion and the Sparta lionesses. They were in the area, so it made sense. This, we thought, was the only rare sighting of the week. How wrong we were.
After the Sparta lioness sighting, Nadia took her guests on early morning game drive the following morning. Little did her excited guests know what lay ahead – the beauty of the wild. The unknown!
Nadia sent us this message shortly after the mind-blowing scenario unravelled.
On morning game drive we stumbled across the 6 Mhangeni Breakaway lionesses along with the 2 Matshipiri males. They were all just lazing around but the females seemed to stir a bit and was keen to hunt. The eventually got up and moved into a drainage line to settle in for the day. In the afternoon game drive we returned and they were still sleeping. One Matshipiri and one of the Mhangeni’s were off to the side mating. After some time they all got up and went in search of prey. After one failed attempt, eventually an impala kill was made. The males greedily devoured the whole kill without sharing a morsel!
Out of the blue a lone lionesses – not part of the breakaways – appeared. All 6 of the Mhangeni Breakaways decided to attack her. They wounded her really badly and we watched, horrified, as she took her last breath. After she passed away, the females walked over to make sure she was dead – grabbing her one last time. It was truly one of the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed! We managed to grab a bit of cell phone footage, but it was too heartbreaking and a “can’t-believe-this-is-happening” moment to whip out our cameras.
The Sabi Sand seems to have a bloodline of ruthless warriors and aggressive fighters upon their landscape. When war is upon them, prey sources are taken and turf lines are crossed; lions duel to the death to survive. Violent killers or war heroes, lions are the almighty kings of the wild. As humans, we are their observers – we do not interfere and we understand the careful synchronicity between beast and the wild.
We watch the cataclysmic flying of fluff, shredding of flesh during a kill and listen to powerful roars echoing through the land. We standby, watching in awe as the food chain unfolds before our eyes. However, when a lion kills another, it’s tremendously sad and horrific for us, but this is the way of the bushveld. It is the war of the warriors and the clash of the titans out there. And the Mhangeni lionesses share a fearless bloodline that hath no mercy!
The Sabi Sand was home to the mighty Mapogo coalition of terrifying and fearless male lions. They ruled over a massive area using fear tactics and took no prisoners during their reign of terror. Their behaviour was documented and studied – never in the world have we seen such a gruesome and ruthless warrior instinct. With such a strong bond and being large in size and stature; the Mapogos ruled the Sabi Sand for 6 years until circa 2012 when the Majinglanes (4 young males originally from the Kruger National Park) entered their grounds. It is believed the Mapogos killed in excess of 40 lions and cubs. The stats are actually probably higher given their coverage of such large territories. It is rumoured that the Mhangeni lionesses could be the grand daughters of Mapogo lions Mr T and Kinky Tail. Could the killer instinct be rife within them?
Have any questions? We all do! The combination of powerful genetics coursing through the veins of these lionesses and their ruthless will to survive is an incredible thing to watch, not a moment easily forgotten.