Friday, 25 May 2012

24th May – Machaton Pride’s Tragedy

Photo of the Day

Ending the day with elephants

Morning Drive

(Herold and Grant)

2 x lions (2 males on giraffe kill) – Tanda Tula, Shortcut East

1 x lion (Machaton Cub – Dead) – Tanda Tula, Shortcut East

1 x leopard (Shindzuti male) – Java, Tamboti Wallow

1 x leopard (Umfana male) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Double Highway

Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Shadrack, Herold and Grant)

2 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Flooded Crossing

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Hippo Rocky Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Voel Dam Southern Access

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Voel Dam Southern Access

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Voel Dam

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Great North

3 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Buffalo Pan

Daily Synopsis

So, apologies for keeping you all in suspense with yesterday’s post, but being a daily blog, I couldn’t tell you what happened!  Secondly, I want to apologise for the lack of images, but I have included a link to a few images posted on a neighbouring lodge’s site, just so you can get an idea of the story...

So what is the story?  Well, leaving the Machaton Pride feeding on their giraffe kill last night, I was so happy to see this pride doing so well, but unbeknown to either myself or the lions, danger was lurking close by.  At some point during the night, the same two nomadic male lions that chased them off their buffalo kill last week pitched up again, but this time they went beyond merely chasing!

The Nomads
Arriving at the site of the kill in the morning, the Tanda Tula guides found the grim sight of one of the young Machaton male lions lying in the grass. Dead.  He had been attacked and fatally mauled by one of the large intruders during the fight, and the victors themselves were lying just metres away; fat and gorged from consuming what little remained of the giraffe carcass.  While normally the death of one animal – the giraffe – leads to the continuation of life for many other (that’s just nature), in this case, the death of the giraffe lead to the death of a lion too.  Go see some of the photos here.
RIP young Machaton male...
The Machaton Pride were widely scattered and while initial reports were of only finding six of the remaining lions, Tanda Tula guides reported that all the other lions were indeed safe.  Sadly though, this was not the end of the nightmare, and even during the day, tracks for the Machaton Pride indicate that they had once again been chased by these new males!

The reason for this is the demise of the pride’s dominant male coalition.  Starting out as three impressive males, the Timbavati males (and the only lions that I was actually afraid of in the reserve) ruled the south since 2008, and even when one brother disappeared in 2009, they continued to rule.  Sadly though, it appears that a second male had now died too, leaving only one brother to defend this pride and a piece of prime real estate; it is not sure whether the two new nomadic males have ousted him and this is now officially the start of a pride take over or not, but I am willing to put money on the fact that this is just the first of the killings that will be seen over the coming months.  Its a hard knock for a pride that has not raised any cubs born within the last 5 years, but ultimately, losing a male lion cub is not the end of the world for the pride as a whole, or indeed the reserve.  If all seven young males were to have made it to adulthood, they would form such a formidable coalition that no sub-adult lions would have escaped their wrath!  Still, that is all speculation and only a minor consolation for the fact that one of our lions lost its life last night.

Grant and Herold did venture down south to see this scene with their guests, but it is never a pleasant moment to see a dead lion cub – if it is any consolation, Grant reckons that the young male was probably dead before he knew what hit him with a swift bite to the neck to break the spine. Let us just hope it was so quick.

Not letting that dampen the morning, the guides did enjoy sightings of both Shindzuti and Umfana male leopards and a few elephants in the south.

I rejoined drive in the afternoon, and it was a rather quiet one, but still pleasant enough.  There were impalas on the airstrip and a couple of buffalo bulls in the Sohebele River by Flooded Crossing, but little else around Piva Plains.  Further along we had some waterbuck and a few birds, but even driving along the usually-productive Peru Entrance Rd yielded nothing! 

Buffalo and waterbuck
A herd of elephants around Voel Dam turned out to be about four or five different herds gathered in the area, and we spent the last part of the day with them.

Elephants aplenty in the west this afternoon
After drinks at Voel Dam, two herds came to drink as we were leaving – not sure if they were waiting for us to leave, or the dam’s resident hippo! 

More elephants at Voel Dam
Making the trip home was very quiet, another herd of elephants and a chameleon, but nothing else to speak of.  I hope that this isn’t a new trend starting just because Grant and I are driving a photographic group together!

We shall see what tomorrow brings!


  1. Hi Chad,
    It's really sad about the young male lion. How old are the sub-adults? Would they be able to survive on their own if they were ousted from the pride instead of being killed by the nomadic males?

    Tammy Lee

  2. Hi Chad
    Thanks for bringing us up to date - Nature can be so cruel - I just hope the sub-adults will b fine. It is tragic to see a family torn apart like this - but then that is nature - the strongest survive. Thanks for your elephant phots. I think the cutest baby animals are the hippo and elephant. I love it when the babies trunks are all over the place - no control!! LOL
    Catch yu tomorrow.

    1. Do you think the tribe will make it with the new nomadic males.

  3. Interesting. Since the Sohebeles are back, will they try and take over any of the local prides? After the Sohebeles and the white lion pride, there doesn't seem to be any female with cubs in that region? What happened to the Timbavati males-were they kileld by other lions?