With their hallmark swagger, burly presence and menacing incisors designed to shred meat with blade like precision; the Machaton male lions have certainly emerged the victors in terms of creating the much talked about “landscape of fear” here in the Balule. The Machaton boys make up the bulk of the male lion sightings at Ezulwini Game Lodges, and have been dubbed our resident Kings of the bushveld. They are here to stay, and have successfully ousted and dethroned previous Kings using their ruthless ways. Never fearing confrontation, actively indulging in aggressive warfare and ensuring other lions retreat into the lost pockets of the undiscovered bushveld; the Machatons have taken no prisoners in their pursuit of territorial dominance.
Last week our resident photographer Em Gatland, together with the eager team of rangers from Ezulwini, headed out in search of the notorious Machaton males, and their favourite females – the Kudyela lionesses. The recent game drives at Ezulwini have been pretty successful in terms of lion sightings, with guests enjoying sightings of the Kudyela lionesses conducting two hunts, and the Machaton males scent marking and contact calling.
It seems that the Machaton males have a close-knit bond with the Kudyelas, which would make sense given that they’ve recently sired cubs with these lionesses. It remains to be seen whether these cubs will survive, given the high mortality rate of cubs in the untamed wild. Hopefully we will catch a glimpse of the cubs in due course. In the meantime, we’re glad that Em was lucky enough to stumble across 3 of the Machaton males and photograph them in all their glory.
She observed two of them contact calling the third male who was in close proximity. Her photos clearly showcase an atmosphere of sheer power and desire to protect their land, females and recent brood.
Machaton and Mohlabetsi Low Down : The Machatons are revered and feared by their opposition, and we can confirm that they now dominate the traverse they initially sought to reign over. They were a coalition of 4 lions deeply entrenched in the history of the Timbavati Game Reserve, but now reside primarily in the Balule. It’s mainly the 3 boys that are spotted, and at times just two of them. Just over a year ago, the traverse was largely dominated by the Mohlabetsi coalition, but the bravado of the Machatons saw them challenging the previously dominant boys for their territory.
Over the past year there were a few scuffles, but it seemed the Mohlabetsi retreated for a while. If you recall, the Machaton’s confronted the large Mohlabetsi male and terrorised him for a while. At the beginning of last year the Mohlabetsi were 8, then dropped to 6; and now the coalition sits at 5 with speculation that the Machatons were responsible for the causality of the flaxen mane lion, Blondie.
You only have to delve back into our lion archives to notice the slow and subtle increase in Machaton sightings, and decrease in Mohlabetsi sightings. The 3/4 Machaton’s were born with an arsenal of tough attitudes and whatever they do in the wild, they certainly do with intent. Contact calling, roaring and displaying of power is enough to make the Mohlabetsi retreat further.
One of the sightings that stands out of recent weeks is that of the Kudyela Pride of lionesses conducting a kill. Ranger and camp manager Angele Rouillard spotted the Kudyela lionesses enjoying the spoils of a recent impala meal.
Angele said, “A few nights ago, guests were privileged to witness the Kudyela lionesses hunt using a blitz technique. From stalking to successfully taking down an impala, the entire scene was over in a matter of minutes. The lionesses have since hunted a zebra, of which the remaining spoils have gone to the Machaton males.”
The Machatons leave a cloud of dust where they roam, and there is simply no room for any burgeoning coalitions or intruders. They are fiercely protective of the Kudyela lioness litter, and the females within this pride. Of course, this could change when other males attempt to move in and prove to be equally as brazen as the Machaton leaders.
These lions are not quite the Mapagos, but they certainly boast the warrior gene that incites ferocity and fearlessness. Are they similar to the Mapogos or are these lions just being lions ?
One thing’s for certain, the Balule’s Machaton male lions are to be feared.