The neighbours found our cat
Young male Lions face a lot of challenges past the age of about 18 months when they are pushed out of the pride by the dominant male. This young male was driven away by Thanda’s dominant Lion (Sikhondlakhondla) when he was just over one year old. We were pleased to see the odd photo of him on camera traps as he thrived by himself in the Wilderness area of the Thanda Mduna Royal Game Reserve (an area of 6,600 hectares which has been leased to Thanda Safari by the Zulu King and the Ingonyama Trust Board).
Recently however our dominant male started to look for new females to mate with, which took him into the youngster’s area. But a 3.5 year old Lion is not quite ready to face up to a 6.5 year old male who is in the prime of his life. In his effort to avoid a confrontation the young cat ended up on our neighbour’s property; Zululand Rhino Reserve.
The good relationships between neighbouring reserves in Zululand meant that we quickly established that the unknown Lion on their side was our young male. Since his ‘escape’ he was seen only briefly. Finally we caught a break and with the assistance of the Zululand Rhino Reserve management team, Wildlife Act and Dr. Mike Toft, the youngster was returned to Thanda where he spent one night in a boma to allow the capture drugs to fully wear off. He has now been collared so we can keep an eye on his movements whilst he continues to give Sikhondlakhondla a wide berth.
This avoidance behaviour is perfectly normal and it is important for both Lions that the environment allows them to act as naturally as possible. In due course a male’s testosterone levels will increase and his mane will darken, he’ll roar more frequently to advertise his presence whilst he establishes his own territory and seeks access to females. Whilst Lions avoid fighting as much as possible due to personal risk of injury, fights happen if one doesn’t submit to the dominance of the other. This is something our Wildlife Management Team will be able to monitor due to the Lion’s collar.
The picture above shows the young Lion in the boma before his release. The picture below shows his leap to freedom on the Thanda Safari reserve.
Text and pictures by Alison Squance – Thanda Safari – Wildlife Management Team
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