Clash of the Titans

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 7:22 PM

Over the past few months, the male lions of the Mara North Conservancy have been causing chaos in the resident prides.

The culprits are the two gangs of young males – the River Pride males to the North, and the recent rulers, the Cheli and Peacock males, to the south. Originally from Lemek Conservancy, these three impressive lions came out of the blue to assert their dominance over the largest group of breeding females in the conservancy – the Cheli and Peacock Pride. Joshua, Jamal and Akiki overthrew Ajani, Samir and Shambe late lasdt year, but with little between the two trios, and less than a kilometre of no-man’s land between their territories, there’s been a fair number of scraps.

A few nights ago I found the River males at the end of the Cheli and Peacock lugga, deep into Joshua and co.’s territory. They were definitely looking for trouble.

Shambe and Samir

The next morning I went on the hunt for lions. First I found Shambe, idling alongside the main road. At first glance, it didn’t look like anyone else was around, but the zebra soon alerted me to more predators. it was Samir and Ajani, but they weren’t with their brother – they were striding into the Cheli and Peacock males’ territory, and with a purpose.

Roaring as they went and clearly looking for trouble, I drove ahead to see what the deal was. I quickly found Jamal a few hundred metres of the pair. He seemed to be on the run – ahead of him was Joshua, his brother.

Jamal has someone on his tail…
The pair picked up the pace, but suddenly hesitated. The tables had obviously turned, as ahead of his brothers, Akiki ran into the picture. Swinging round to follow, Jamal and Joshua followed suit and turned on the River Males – without Shambe in support, they were down 2 to 3. It was the Cheli and Peacock Males’ turn to bellow now, and defend their territory and females.

Akiki and Joshua pursue the pair…
…roaring as they go. You rarely see a male lion move this fast!
The males quickly scent marked by scuffing urine into the ground – a clear sign to the River males that this territory is taken
It soon became obvious why the trios were tussling. Further down the valley, Siti was watching her males descend. They picked up the pace when they saw her, and followed her into the bushes. I knew that one of the girls had a new litter – could it be Siti?

Siti checks that the approaching males are friendly

Siti was cautious, and for good reason – if the Cheli and Peacock males had let the River Males near Siti, her cubs would have been in grave danger. Having lost her previous two litters to male infanticide, Siti desperately needs these three boys to defend her offspring against intruders.

With her older offspring showing signs of pregnancy, and her sisters Nura and Lilly probably expecting, now could be the turning point of the pride. Can Joshua, Jamal and Akiki watch their girls and help the pride grow? Let’s hope so. But with the River Pride males within throwing distance and on the prowl for new females, they’re not out of the woods yet…