Roller Coaster/Rollercoaster Males
Roller Coaster Males
Information/background 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.
Roller Coaster/Rollercoaster Males, AKA Shaw Males, AKA Castleton Males - Originally a Coalition of Six
These six males were born into the Castleton/Ximungwe pride in 1996. The same pride that also gave us the Tsalala Pride and the Ximuvanyane Pride.
They were sired by the 5 Sparta males (the same coalition that sired the Mapogo Males).
It is unclear how the Coalition of 6 was whittled down to just two by early 2006 but various reports suggests Bovine Tuberculosis and death by other lions was most likely the cause. By 2001 there were 5 surviving. 2002, four were surviving as one was believed to have been killed by another lion. One more disappeared and was believed dead by Aug 2002 leaving three. Of these three, one could easily be identified as he was missing an eye. The three became the dominant males of the Selati/Shaw Pride which by (2004) had 12 cubs sired by them of which produce the now known young Golf Course Males (Mala Mala). It was reported by Mala Mala in February 2006, that the one male missing an eye was confirmed to have died. He had been in poor condition for some time.
The two remaining Roller Coaster males had taken over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride by Aug 2006. This being the pride the Mapogo Coalition originated from. The pride today consists of three lionesses. Two are sisters of the Mapogo Males and the one old lioness may very well be the Mother to some of the Mapogos. The Eyrefield Pride currently has nine cubs approximately 18 to 20 mos old (5 males, 4 females) sired by the two Roller Coaster males and just recently accepted into their pride the Sub Adult male, Solo, from the Tsalala Pride.
The two Roller Coaster brothers sought to oust the surviving old Split Rock male from his dominance over the Styx Pride. Which they finally succeeded in doing in 2007. It is suspected the Roller Coaster males contributed to the loss of all the Styx pride’s cubs in the later part of 2006.
Sadly, in June 2007 one of the Roller Coaster brothers was killed by a crocodile. Only one survives today. The lone survivor still has control for now over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride and also must have some dominance over the Styx pride as several of those lionesses reportedly have given birth in past months. The cubs are believed to be sired by the Roller Coaster male. He has been seen spending a lot of time with the pride and interacting with the cubs. Though there is speculation that some of the Styx cubs may have been sired by the Mapogos, the old Roller Coaster Male accepts them all as his cubs.
Update received Mar 2009 from Andrew at Mala Mala: The two oldest Styx Pride cubs were sired by the old Roller Coaster Male, seven were sired by either the Roller Coaster Male or the Mapogos or a combination of both, the newest cubs recently born are sired by the Mapogos.
Upadte May 22nd 2009 The last two months have been erratic for the Roller Coaster male. It was reported he had been ousted as the dominant male of the Eyrefield Pride and the Styx Pride by two Mapogos (Kinky Tail and Mr T) that seem to be on a mission in Mala Mala to take control over these prides. The majority of the Styx Pride, with cubs in tow, have fled the area as well as the Eyrefield Pride. Eventually, the old Roller Coaster rejoined the Eyrefield Pride but they have suffered several attacks by the two Mapogos. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of two of the sub adult cubs and members being separated. As of this date, the 3 adult lionesses, 7 sub adult cubs, the old Roller Coaster male along with the young Tsalala male, Solo who has been accepted into this pride, have reunited and escaped into the Londolozi area. Only time will tell what the outcome of this conflict may be.
June 10th 2009 - Where are you "old" man? You were mysteriously missing from the Eyrefield Pride on this date. Sighting at Mala Mala.
June 26th 2009 - The old fella reappeared near the West Street area of Mala Mala. He was on his own but looking well. The next morning, he had disappeared once again.
July & Aug 2009 found the Rollercoaster Male back in the midst of the Eyrefield Pride for the most part. This report by Mala Mala for Aug sums up perfectly the predicament a male can find himself in when caught between his women:
"Amazingly he is still hanging around, and doing so in style. Looking better than he has in a long time the Rollercoaster male continues to dominate the Eyrefield pride although probably without much authority. At least thirteen years in age he walks with a slow deliberate pace resting whenever he can but always able to make it to dinner in time for some food. When the Eyrefield pride ran into his former pride the Styx pride he was stuck between a rock and a hard place so like any good male he ran up the rock and roared his heart out. Standing over the battle ground watching both his prides fighting each other the male didn’t commit but provided the perfect music to the show on the ground. Afterwards he joined up with the Eyrefield pride and has stuck with them." http://www.malamala.com/MM7/LION_rollercoaster09.html
September 2009 - During this month two fights occured. One on Mala Mala with five unknown young male lions. Rollercoaster decided it was safer to hide in the river bed than to fight leaving his Pride to fend the males off on their own. The next attack occurred on a neighboring property with either another pride or group of males which split up the entire Eyrefield Pride. Nine members are together including the young Tsalala male, another lioness with an injury is with one sub adult male also with some injuries. Rollercoaster male was with the injured ones but has now gone missing.
By end of Oct 2009, the Rollercoaster Male had reunited with the rest of the Eyrefield Pride. He was looking magnificent and led the charge on a buffalo kill and even delivered the killing blow. They were again 12 strong though still on the run from the Mapogo Males especially the two younger Mapogo/Eyrefield Males that had made it their mission to take over the pride they were born of... the Eyrefields.
November 2009 - This old male spent the month with his pride. Quote from Mala Mala sums of their love of this old boy. "He seems to possess eternal life and just wont give up always somehow managing to make it through each month stronger than the last. With his disappearance last month it was feared he had lost him but this month that couldn’t be further from the truth. An awesome male lion in his day let’s hope he continues to live a happy life with his pride until that day finally comes."
December 2009 was a rough month for the Rollercoaster Male. Reports coming in from Londolozi and Mala Mala suggest the two Mlowathi/Mapogo males have had run ins with the pride. Fragmented groups of the Eyrefield members were being spotted here and there and some of the adult lionesses even mating with the Mlowathi/Mapogo males. Rollercoaster again went missing and when he reappeared late in the month... his health was declining rapidly. Listed on Mala Mala as being +/- 13 ½ years of age.
* Note: See the Final Chapter at the end of this page.
Note of interest: Lionesses from the Charleston pride (Mala Mala) are thought to be sisters or cousins of the Roller Coaster males due to interactions between the pride and the coalition when they were seen together in 2002/2003.
Another interesting note: It is believed the Roller Coaster Coaliton may have fathered the younger Mapogo Males. When they were a young coalition and still had 5 surviving, they were reported to have been seen mating with the some of the lionesses of Eyrefield/Sparta pride that the aging West Street males still dominated.
The lone surviving Roller Coaster male is a beautiful lion and we can only hope he is able to maintain his dominance over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride and the Styx pride long enough for the cubs to reach independence. Update: Seems the old lion has lost his place as dominant male of the Styx Pride and may well be losing it with the Eyrefield Pride as well.
He is a real "character" too. Rangers in the Mala Mala area often joke how he can find a meal no matter where it is. If it is free and easy, he will locate it. Along with his dislike of having to exert himself to secure a meal, he also seems to have an aversion to fighting/defending his territory. If their is a conflict involving other males, he is more likely to let the girls in his prides handle the situation while he hangs out with the cubs or heads in the opposite direction. All said and done though.... he is a remarkable "old" man!
THE FINAL CHAPTER
As reported on http://www.MalaMala.com CyberDiary
Rollercoaster male – 27 December 2009
After a long absence from the area the Rollercoaster male was found near Mumbo waterhole lying in some very thick grass. He was not in good condition and has lost a lot of weight since we last saw him almost a month ago. He still had enough strength to go and drink from the waterhole and then attempted to hunt impala in the middle of the day in an open area. Eventually he was left sleeping again in long grass next to the waterhole. He is very reliant on the Eyrefield pride hopefully his presence means the Eyrefield pride will return.
Rollercoaster male – 29 December 2009
The old boy was found with the remains of a young buffalo carcass. He more than likely didn’t make the kill but instead scavenged the kill. The male was looking extremely thin even with a full belly; the kill had almost been finished. The lion went for a drink before collapsing next to “his” kill.
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
R.I.P. old fella.... you will be Missed!
Updated Jan 2010
By Aquila & Karen in VA.