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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Ximhungwe Pride Of Lions


One of our resident pride of lions is known as the Ximhungwe pride, here is a condensed history of the pride together with some videos from le last couple of years:

Ximhungwe pride feeding on a wildebeest after the mapogos had been kicked out.

In 2004 the 6 females of the Castleton pride were taken over by the Sand River Male aka Dzunani and soon were producing cubs all over the place. Due to the fact that the pride seldom crossed onto Castleton property anymore it was decided to rename them after the large open area that they were now spending most of their time - Ximhungwe clearings.

The youngsters of the Ximhungwe pride face an uncertain future

18 cubs were born between 2004/2005 but the numbers dropped to 16 then 12. Such a large pride struggled to feed all their members and were often seen in bad condition. The times when they did get good food their condition improved overnight.

The pride in more stable times, together with the Mapogo males

Sadly a combination of Bovine TB and the arrival of the Mapogo males meant that the pride went into freefall in 2006, 5 of the six lionesses and Dzunani were all gone by the end of the year. The cubs were also reduced to a group of 3 young lionesses and a young male. The Ravenscourt pride (once originally part of the Castleton pride) was also in decline for similar reasons and the pride male (the brother of the remaining lioness) came across to spend more time with the Ximhungwes, when one of the youngsters was killed by a hyena we were all surprised to see the pride numbers were unchanged a few days later. The last remaining member of the Ravenscourt pride - a young lioness, had also been integrated into the group. The pride now spent most of their time trying to avoid the Mapogo and the Castleton male was trying hard to forge a bond with the young male, a bond that we hoped would last.

The youngsters were very interested in some of the debris that the floods bring every year

In 2008 the Tsalala pride (2 adult females 1 sub female and 1 sub male) started to be seen in our traversing area, another breakaway from the Castleton pride, they had moved in under pressure from the Mapogo. The young male soon moved off to become known as Solo and the 2 lionesses started to be seen mating with the Mapogo males, the sub-adult female was seen alone a couple of times.

When the cubs were a bit younger, together with the Mapogo males on a kill

One morning we came across the Ximhungwe pride on a zebra kill and noticed that there were now 5 instead of 4 lionesses in the group, the Tsalala youngster had joined with her distant relatives!

Some of the cubs that did not make it. This is the first female to mate with the Selati males

It was not long after this that the 2 males were put down after being found eating a dog which tested positive for Rabies, a week or two later and they would have been inoculated against the disease as the authorities were busy with all the large predators at the time :( .

The pride members in this video are no longer with us

This then opened up the pride to a takeover by the Mapogo, all the lionesses were almost of breeding age so there was no threat to the group. Cubs were born in 2009 and early 2010 that did not survive, the current crop of cubs from late 2010 and 2011 stands at 4 (3 males and a female). the pride is now down to 4 lionesses after the death of the last of the Castleton females, they are now truly the Ximhungwe pride!

The last castleton lioness showing what a good mother she was

With the vanquishing of the Mapogo males by the Selati coalition in March 2012 the pride is once again under threat from a takeover and it will be interesting to see if these four lionesses will be able to raise the cubs despite the new males being around, the same way that they themselves were raised…

The following videos are all from when the various cubs were small, some didn’t make it but the four youngsters remaining are in the clips too:












An finally, turn your sound up as the youngsters bid you all farewell: