Information/background on The Eyrefield/Sparta Pride has been gathered from various sites (Mala Mala, Londolozi, Djuma, Savanna, Nkorho, Elephant Plains, Singita, Exeter, Arathusa, Ulusaba, Inyati, Wildwatch, Idube, Leopard Hills, Simbambili) and their sightings databases along with helpful Rangers and staff at the various lodges and reserves answering questions sent their way.
Territory includes Mala Mala, Londolozi and surrounding areas.
The Eyrefield/Sparta Pride in 1997/98 consisted of seven to eight lionesses that were taken over by five males known as the West Street/Sparta Males. They took over the pride after killing the Tsalala Pan resident males (may also be known as the Manyeleti Males). Londolozi reported that most of the litters born to the Eyrefield/Sparta pride the first 3 years did not survive.
By 2000, the pride consisted of 7 adult lionesses, two approximately 16 month old cubs (1 male, 1 female) and the five aging West Street Males. Of these two cubs, the male was lost sometime during May/June 2000 and the female survives to this day. During this same time, May/June 2000, another sub adult male lion approximately the same age as the missing young male, joined the Eyrefield Pride. Though he was not readily accepted by either the lionesses nor the dominant males, he was tolerated. Today, that same youngster is the dominant male of the infamous Mapogo Coalition.
Between 2000 and 2002, approximately 20 cubs were born with only eight that survived. Of these eight, 5 were males who eventually matured and joined the older unrelated Male to form the 6 male coalition known as Eyrefield/Sparta Males or the Mapogos. One of the female cubs is part of the current Eyrefield pride. Some of these surviving cubs were believed to be sired by the Roller Coaster (Rollercoaster)/Shaw Males. It was reported by Mala Mala that the Roller Coaster Males may have sired five cubs that were born in the latter part of 2001 when they lured some of the Eyrefield lionesses away from the aging West Street males. These cubs would include the two youngest of the Mapogo Coalition.
In 2003, two of the four Marthly/Split Rock/Robson males began their move to take over the Eyrefield/Sparta Pride. Some reports indicate that during these take over attempts, the Split Rocks allowed the two surviving old West Street males to remain while others tend to dispute that. The last West Street Male died in 2004 at approximately 14 yrs to 16 plus years of age.
Over the next couple of years, the pride was in turmoil with threats of take over by the Split Rock males. Some lionesses were seen mating with them while others separated from the pride to avoid them.
By 2006, the Split Rock males still had not fully taken control over the Eyrefield Pride and the 6 Eyrefield/Sparta aka Mapogo Males began to venture away from the pride. During this same time period, two of the Roller Coaster Males began their attempt to take over the pride and one young Eyrefield lioness along with her two cubs went missing. Possibly killed by the Roller Coaster Males. One of the old lionesses died from natural causes/old age. Thus by the end of 2006, the pride now consisted of four adult lionesses and the two Roller Coaster Males. The first cubs sired by the Roller Coaster Males did not survive.
Another one of the younger adult lionesses disappeared around April/May 2007 leaving an old lioness of 13 yrs. 1 mo, an adult lioness 8 yrs 7 mos, the surviving sibling (female) to the missing lioness age 5 yrs 8 mos. Between the months of May through July 2007, 10 cubs were born with nine surviving. In June 2007, one of the Roller Coaster Males sadly was killed by a crocodile.
October 2007, one of the nine cubs went missing from the pride for 8 days. The Eyrefields had ventured into a scheduled burn area. The pride escaped the fire but were missing one cub. The young cub was viewed for six days on it’s own and it was another two days before the pride finally located it. The cub quickly flourished once back within the safety of the pride.
December 2007, the nine surviving cubs now range in age from 5 months (4 cubs), 7 months (1 cub) and 7 months 2 weeks (4 cubs).
The pride remained relatively stable for all of 2008. The old Roller Coaster Male splitting his time between them and the Styx Pride. Their nine cubs grew bigger and stronger with each passing month. The cubs consisted of 5 males and 4 females ranging in age between 17 months and 19 months 2 weeks by December 2008.
January 2009, this pride was joined by the young (approximately 3 ½ yrs old) Tsalala/Marthly male known as “Solo”. It took several months, but eventually he was accepted into the pride by both the lionesses, the nine cubs and even the old Roller Coaster Male.
A dramatic turn of events disrupted their fairly peaceful existence. The Mapogo/Eyrefield Males began moving back into the area of which they were born and the pride they originated from now became their target.
April 2009, the old Roller Coaster Male was ousted as the dominant male of both the Eyrefield Pride and the Styx Pride. The prides fled with their cubs in an effort to keep them safe. Apparently the old Roller Coaster Male reunited with the Eyrefield Pride and fled with them into Londolozi and surrounding areas.
April 8th 2009, reports were coming in to Mala Mala that a fight was ensuing West of Mala Mala. Two lionesses with six of the cubs fled to safety but the rest of the pride including the young Tsalala Male were under attack by the Mapogos/Eyrefield Males. After this fight, one sub adult cub was missing and presumed dead. Eventually, the rest of the pride was reunited once more.
April 28th 2009 - Another run in with the Mapogo/Eyrefield Males. Viewed in the AM at Mala Mala were the three lionesses, five sub adult cubs and the old Roller Coaster male. One sub adult male was reported killed in the previous nights attack. Missing was the young Tsalala Male and two of the sub adult cubs.
The next day (29th) The young Tsalala Male along with the two missing Eyrefield sub adult cubs were located further South and still separated from the rest of their pride.
May 2nd found the two Eyrefield sub adult cubs all alone in approximately the same area as before but the young Tsalala Male was no longer with them.
May 7th, The young Tsalala Male, the Roller Coaster Male and six sub adult cubs were seen but missing this time were the three lionesses and one female sub adult cub.
Thankfully, the next day they reportedly had all reunited.
Andrew at Mala Mala shared that after May 10th the pride moved into Londolozi. At that time the pride consisted of the three adult lionesses, seven sub adult cubs (3 males and 4 females), the young Tsalala Male, and the old Roller Coaster Male.
June 3rd & 4th 2009, The pride was seen in Mala Mala on an adult male giraffe kill. Apparently, this large of a kill was possible due to the pride having the Tsalala male (approx 4 yrs old now) and the Roller Coaster male in attendance.
June 10th 2009 - The pride was again viewed in Mala Mala and the Rangers reported all were accounted for with the exception of the old Roller Coaster Male.
June 12th - 26th sightings by Ulusaba - Though no specific date was given, the entire Eyrefield Pride was said to be in Ulusaba. Smack in the middle of Mapogo and the Ximungwe Pride's territory. Ulusaba listed the count for the pride as 12 which included one Male lion. Assuming the count was correct, the Roller Coast male and the young Tsalala male should both have been in attendance. The pride was hunting Kudu but without success. At least six of the youngsters decided to take on a Honey Badger but the Honey Badger held it's ground and after emitting a foul odor managed to escape.
June 24th 2009 - The entire Eyrefield Pride, with the exception of the Roller Coaster male, were found near Lion Loop in Mala Mala resting up. As dusk approached they got active. Heading towards the Sand River they came across a Buffalo Herd that was just leaving the river area. The lions took the opportunity to follow the herd across the Sand River. They closed the gap on some stragglers but soon were noticed by the herd's rear guard bulls. Three large bulls turned to face off with the lions. For quite some time the pride played cat and mouse with the bulls and began to slowly wear them down. Luckily, the bulls caught on to the lions strategy and returned to the safety of the herd. With the herd now tightly grouped the lions could not penetrate them. Finally they charged the herd sending them stampeding in the hopes of some stragglers they could take down but this did not play out for them. The pride finally gave up and rested.
The next day, 25th, the pride was again located and were looking lean. By mid day they move out of the Mala Mala viewing area.
January 1st 2010 - The dominant male of the Eyrefield/Sparta Pride has died. R.I.P. Rollercoaster Male. You were a Magnificent Lion .... Roar on! Seven of his now sub adult cubs with the Eyrefield/Sparta pride still survive (4 females, 3 male).
Rollercoaster male – 1 January 2010
Mala Mala lost a stalwart today -the Rollercoaster Male lion has died. He had been lying in the buffalo pans area for the past three days and was severely emaciated. He had mange on his shoulders and infected bite marks on his rump. He was 12 years old.
On the recommendation of the State Veterinarian in Kruger Park, the difficult decision was taken to euthanize him and so at 5pm on the 1st January 2010, this was carried out. The Rollercoaster Male Lions were one of the most successful male coalitions on MalaMala Game Reserve. They first took over the Charleston pride and produced a successful litter of cubs - two of these which have now matured and are referred to as the Golf Course Males. They moved north and took control of the Eyrefield pride and seven out of the ten cubs fathered by them are now 2 ½ years old. Following the death of his 'partner' in 2007, the single Rollercoaster Male then took control of the Styx pride and produced 13 cubs. However the Mlowathi males started putting pressure on him for control of the Styx pride and his cubs bore the brunt of this feud. There are still four of his cubs left in the pride. They are 18 months old and we hope that they can hold out and reach maturity.
Looking back through our records we have noted that the Rollercoaster males were also mating with some of the Eyrefield females when the two Mlowathi males were produced - so in a twist of fate worthy of the big screen the Rollercoaster Male might have lost power and control to his own kin.
Dr Bengis, the State Vet from Skukuza confirmed during an autopsy that old age, exacerbated by a TB infection, was the cause of his ill-health. His kidneys and adrenal gland showed signs of infection. It would be accurate to say that given his old age and poor physical condition he would be hard pressed to survive and even finding food by scavenging would be difficult for him. He was no longer a territorial male and would be avoiding other coalitions of male lions. http://www.malamala.com/wildlife.htm
As of April 22nd 2010, the Eyrefield Pride are still alive and well including the Tsalala/Marthly young male known as Solo. They have had some harsh times running from the two Mapogo males known as Kinky Tail and Mr. T but they have survived. Many times split up into smaller groupings. Two of the three adult females of the pride have been mating with the two Mapogo males for the last few months. Seen in Mala Mala today were 10 Eyrefield pride members all together and looking good. The one missing adult female was seen on her own but also doing quite well.
Update July 9, 2010 - Latest reports indicate that Solo, the Tsalala/Marthly young male, is still traveling with the 7 sub adults. All were alive and well when last seen on a giraffe kill recently.
Two of the three separated adult lionesses have cubs. One has two and the other has one. With the recent death of Kinky Tail and with Mr T moving West to rejoin his brothers, the future for these small cubs is rather bleak.
A report from Londolozi for July 7th indicates one lone adult Eyrefield/Sparta lioness is in very poor condition and could barely move. MalaMala reports the eldest and one other adult lioness are still being seen with their 3 small cubs in tow.
Update October 2010 - The Eyrefield pride is still going strong. Solo, the young Tsalala male, is still with the seven sub adults and one adult lioness. Andrew from Mala Mala relayed a sighting of them hunting buffalo on the 25th Oct. Seems the pride attacked the herd at night, buffalo running everywhere. A cow smashed away half a termite mound trying to kill the lion on her back. The big male (Solo) ran slam into a dead tree branch with a buffalo on his tail. They finally brought down a calf but the herd kept running them off until finally the herd gave up after a 10 minute standoff and the lions got their meal after all.
Here is a similar sighting but during the daytime at Londolozi. Their blog about it from Sept. 2010 - http://blog.londolozi.com/2010/09/buffalo-thrills-and-lion-kills/ and the video (Warning Graphic) Note the big male with the full mane... that is Solo. What a beautiful strong lion.
Seems the Eyrefield Pride are becoming the Buffalo Hunters once again!
The update on the two separated lionesses and the three young cubs is a good one as well. They have managed to survive and keep all three cubs alive as well. This is quite a feat as they have no males to help defend them now.
Londolozi did a blog on the 28th of October of a very unusual sighting of the two adult Eyrefield lionesses and their three cubs sharing a kill with some of the Selati/Southern Pride. It is a good read: http://blog.londolozi.com/2010/10/lion-pride-sharing-kills/
Here is the video of the encounter:
May the Eryefield/Sparta pride continue to prosper and grow in strength!
Update December 22nd 2010 - The prides luck seems to have run out. On Dec 20th, two of the three younger cubs were found dead on Londolozi. At least one Majingilane male was involved in the attack. Since this attack, one adult lioness, the surviving young cub and one sub adult male were reported seen in Londolozi the following day. On Dec 22nd, MalaMala reported seeing three of the four sub adult females. It is unclear how many members of the Eyrefield/Sparta pride were involved in the attack but the pride seems to be scattered with six members still unaccounted for. They are two adult lionesses, 1 sub female, 2 sub males and Solo the young Tsalala/Marthly male. MalaMala also reported all four of the Majingilane/Manyelethi males back on their property December 22nd.
Looking forward to more reports of the unaccounted for pride members being seen alive and well.
December 29th, 2010 - More reports coming in from Londolozi and MalaMala. Three females and two male sub adults seen alive and well. Also, one missing adult lioness has reunited with her sister and the one surviving youngster.
More Videos of this pride from YouTube:
By mattwood22 Warning Graphic Buffalo Kill
January 2010 - Amazing footage of the Eyrefield Pride on a giraffe carcass with Crocodiles wanting some. Presented by Londolozi Game Reserve.
Lions vs Crocodiles for Giraffe Startling Footage
Please remember, this information is not set in stone as it is an evolving story and there are conflicting accounts.
By Aquila & Karen In VA