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Battle-hardened Brothers of Greater Kruger National Park

‘Legend’ is a word that is thrown around all too often in this day and age, but the term surmises the reign of the Mapogo lions in the Sabi Sands (Greater Kruger)to perfection. For the last six years or so, this notorious band of brothers has ruled the area with an iron paw. They are true warriors and have proved themselves time after time on the field of battle. During their prime, 6 of these magnificent specimens patrolled their territory, dispatching all competitors and striking fear into the hearts of all that found themselves in their way.

Lion Pride

It's believed that the Mapogo brothers have been responsible for killing more than 40 males, females and cubs as they stamped their authority on their domain. Whole prides have been wiped out in their relentless march for dominance. Challengers have been eaten in an act of defiance: a fate almost unheard of in the Lion kingdom. The former warden of the Sabi Sands has been cited saying that he believes them accountable for over 100 lion fatalities although the true number will probably never be known. Never before has the lion population known such a force and it is stories like this that have elevated their exploits to legendary status.

These brothers may have a fearsome reputation, but in the world of the lion, they should be seen as the epitomes of what a successful coalition should be. Their success has changed the dynamic of the lion population in this area forever, and it is no surprise to me that litters are becoming more and more skewed in favour of male offspring. This is an inevitable outcome as nature attempts to balance the scales and provide a more level playing field.

Male Lion Coalition

In recent years, new and equally formidable coalitions have been responsible for whittling down the Mapogo’s numbers as territorial lines were drawn in the sand and crossed, and repeated battles were waged. The Majingilanes in the north and the Southern Pride males in the south have both had their say in the shaping of the new regime, and now all that remains of the mighty Mapogo are two ageing specimens known as Makhulu and Pretty Boy.

Since being overthrown by the Southern Pride males, the last of these legends have been sighted regularly on Sabi Sabi as they search for new territory or maybe just sanctuary as they live out the remainder of their days. At 14 and 11 years of age, they have surpassed the life expectancy of most male lions and carry the scars of years of conflict on the front line.

Lions of Sabi Sands

Peering into those yellow abysses, one can truly feel the history and experience of many a hard-fought battle in which the deciding factor was not just power, but a will to survive. It is difficult not to paint the Mapogos as frightening, evil beasts as a result of the wrath they have actually drizzled down on the location but I really hope that they are kept in mind as excellent rulers and protectors. They have increased the bar regarding the expectations of male coalitions in safeguarding their region as well as ensuring their genetic success.

Written by Ben Coley


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