If you’ve been on safari, you’ll likely have heard your guide say something along the lines of: “Animals don’t read books,” as they try to explain some out of the ordinary behaviour. A recent lion sighting on the Sand River was one such instance where this was the only thing to be said about what was happening.
Lion dynamics at Lion Sands and its surrounding areas are in flux. The Avoca males’ recent run-in with the Charleston males resulted in the former being chased off the reserve and sightings halting for a few days. So when word of the Mangheni lions came on 7 August, there was great excitement. This is a nomadic coalition of sub-adult males who were excommunicated from their pride in the Sabi Sands a few months ago.
Arriving in the area where the lions were spotted, we got a lot more than we bargained for. The first view revealed one large male lion, with a full belly, spread across the road and, what looked like, four female lions feeding on a buffalo carcass in the reeds behind him. This isn’t at all what we were expecting. We waited patiently for the male to move into the reeds, before creeping towards the carcass for a better look.
Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the other lions were actually three sub-adult, males from the Mangheni pride and one Eyrefield lioness – feeding together! The other Avoca male, looking well fed, was also present, obviously having eaten his fill before the others joined in. This behaviour – in particular, the large Avoca males allowing the Manghenis to feed on the same carcass – is certainly not the norm.
We watched in amazement the interaction taking place before us and trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of this strange behaviour. Perhaps the young lions had attempted taking down the buffalo, only to have the Avocas rush in and finish the job. Or maybe, because of their poor condition and submissive behaviour, the Avocas didn’t feel threatened by them and it wasn’t worth risking an injury to chase them away.
The question of what exactly led to this gathering of lions has left us guides scratching our heads. We’ll probably never know, but it certainly provided an extraordinary sighting. There are undoubtedly interesting times ahead for the lions of Lion Sands Game Reserve and its surrounds.
Words by: Field Guide Greg Sims
Photos by: Sarah Lines, guest of Lion Sands River Lodge
Post courtesy of Lion Sands
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