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, Wildearth) their sightings databases and/or helpful Rangers and staff answering questions sent their way.
Styx Pride occasionally referred to as the Mlowati Pride possibly referencing their past association with the Mlowathi/Mlowati males that use to dominate them.
Home Territory is mostly in Mala Mala.
This story starts in early 2000. The Styx pride consisted of a total of eight. One adult lioness of approximately 10 ½ years in age, four sub adult males two of which were a little over 4 yrs of age and two 3 ¾ yrs of age who reached independence around November 2000, and three sub adult females approximately 4 ¼ yrs of age.
Though this pride has been in existence for at least two and a half decades, these 4 lionesses (1 adult, 3 sub adults) were the beginning of the pride we know today. The pride, as it existed then, were one of few that managed to stay out from under the dominance of the forceful West Street Males.
The West Street Males were a coalition of five males that sired many of the lions we still see today in the area including the six Mapogo Males/Eyrefield Males.
An interesting note about this pride, back around 2000 two lionesses reportedly broke off or were separated from the Styx pride and became known as the Sandy Patch aka Safari pride.
Today the pride consists of seven lionesses, only 2 Styx lionesses from the original 4 are still alive. They are 2 sisters that are now 13 yrs of age. The other 5 are surviving cubs from the original 2000 core of 1 adult and 3 sub-adult females.
Approximate age of the 7 Styx lionesses in February 2009
2 Adult lionesses appx 13 yrs and 5 mos
1 Adult lioness 7 yrs and 10 mos - Sired by one of the Mlowathi Males
1 Adult lioness 7 yrs - Sired by one of the Mlowathi Males
2 Adult Lionesses 5 yrs and 6 months - Sired by one of the Split Rock Males
1 Adult Lioness 5 yrs and 4 mos - Sired by one of the Split Rock Males
As of late July 2008 they had 11 to 12 surviving cubs including two just recently being born. As of Mar 2009, the exact count of cubs is uncertain but there are at least 9 and possibly more with speculation of recent births by at least one lioness.
The Styx pride are known to be hard Mothers. They haven’t had much success in raising cubs for a number of years now. Maybe this is the year that reputation changes.
In 2006 they had cubs by the Split Rock males. One of the males died in 2006 and the other old male maintained control of the Styx pride until mid 2007 when he was pushed out by the Roller Coaster males. Prior to the Styx pride being taken over by the Roller Coaster males, they lost all their cubs by the end of 2006 probably from infanticide by the Roller Coaster males.
Mid 2007, one of the Roller Coaster males was killed by a Crocodile. Since then, his brother has maintained dominance over the Styx pride and is believed to be the Sire of their current cubs. There have been a number of reports of the Styx lionesses seen mating with males from the Mapogo Coalition but the old Roller Coaster male is usually in attendance with the Styx pride and accepts the cubs as his. So don’t tell him they might not all be his.
The latest reports indicate the two oldest cubs were sired by the Roller Coaster male, the other seven it is unsure rather it was the Roller Coaster or the Mapogos or a combination of both that sired them. March reports indicate another lioness has very young cubs that were sired by the Mapogo/Eyrefield males.
There have also been several reports of the Styx pride fighting off Mapogo Males when they came near their cubs. Below are a couple of the recent fights between the Styx Pride and the Mapogo/Eyrefield Males as reported by Mala Mala.
It seems the Mapogos found the Styx pride with their 11 cubs on Aug 10th. It was said the 5 male lions didn't pay much attention to the lionesses until they noticed the cubs. They went for the cubs and the Styx girls went into action fighting the males but of course they were no match for 5 big males and had to depart. The Mapogos went in search of the cubs but it was believed they couldn't find any. A couple of days later the latest Styx mother and her two new cubs were still safe in their den area. On the 15th of Aug. the rangers were relieved to see the rest of the pride along with the other 9 cubs so all survived the Mapogo attack.
The Styx pride have always been questioned about their Motherly qualities and are usually shown in a bad light when it comes to taking care of their little ones. In their defense… one must reconsider how good of Mothers they truly are. Taking on 5 big males to defend their cubs and grant the little ones time to escape to safety was indeed heroic.
On another Aug 2008 encounter between the Styx Pride and the Mapogos the Styx didn’t fare as well. The encounter was with 3 Mapogo males and the adult lionesses had an aggressive fight with them. One cub was caught and slung in the air but managed to survive and take refuge in the nearby rocks. The adult lionesses escaped unhurt except for one lioness that received fairly bad bite marks on her back but she recovered quickly.
Another heroic attempt to keep their cubs safe was noted on Mala Mala, December 7th sighting. Mala Mala calls it the Battle at Campbell Koppies.
Two of the Mapogo Males, Kinky Tail and one they call MoHawk who have been frequenting the Mala Mala area in recent months, moved slowly one morning straight towards where the Styx Pride, the cubs and the old Roller Coaster male were resting. A fight was surely imminent when they spotted each other but instead the pride did nothing and the Mapogos skirted around them and found shade for the day.
That afternoon, the Mapogos and the Styx pride were all in the exact same place fast asleep. Things changed in the evening! The Styx pride with their cubs and the old Roller Coaster male in tow, moved straight towards the two Mapogo aka Eyrefiled males. The two Mapogo males sensed the females approaching and rose to meet them. Upon visual contact the Mapogos started roaring and ran at the Styx pride and the Roller Coaster male. All 7 of the lionesses and the old male scattered and retreated to the safety of the Campbell Koppies with their cubs. When the two Mapogo males came near the rocky area, the lionesses burst down from the koppies roaring and headed straight towards the two males. The two males hastily retreated back to the Milowati river. After the lionesses gave chase they returned to their cubs and the Roller Coaster male back towards the koppies. The two Mapogo males took this opportunity to mount another charge aimed at the lionesses roaring all the way. This time the Styx pride retreated to behind the Campbell Koppies and were moving away from the Mapogos. The two males rounding the western koppies ran into a well laid ambush. Five of the lionesses waited for their arrival and again charged the two Mapogos. Again with tucked tails the two ran for the Milowathi River with the girls in hot pursuit. The other two lionesses and the old Roller Coaster male had moved off with the cubs. Not admitting defeat the two Mapogo males again mounted another charge and sent the five lionesses scattering in all directions. Then a contest between the Mapogo males and the old Roller Coaster male erupted. Roaring back and forth with neither admitting defeat. The five lionesses set up a distract the Mapogos strategy which seemed to work well while the cubs were being lead further away to safety by the other two lionesses. Their strategy was to separate in all directions and roar loudly to distract/confuse the two Mapogos. The old Roller Coaster male split quickly as he had no real intentions it seemed to try and impose his dominance on the two Mapogo males.
Mar 4th 2009 the Styx Pride and the Roller Coaster male had yet another run in with two Mapogo males. Reports were of 4 Styx lionesses accompanied by 9 cubs and the old Roller Coaster male giving the two Mapogos a severe beating. The Styx lionesses came out of it with minor injuries and the old Roller Coaster male was limping and some new scratches to his nose but apparently nothing serious.
The next day, the two Mapogos had apparently met up with another Styx lioness who had made a kill near the Gowrie boundary and joined her for the feast.
Watch the Girls in Action: The Styx Moms proved again they are being serious about protecting their cubs this time around. As shown in this clip from an awesome sighting viewed on Wildearth.tv, Sept. 2nd, 2008, titled "Styx Girls Fight to Protect Their Cubs PM 09/02/08". (action starts about 2 1/2 minutes in)
April/May 2009 Update on the Styx Pride: It seems the Old Roller Coaster Male has been ousted by two of the Mapogos known as Kinky Tail and the other one of the Mohawk styled mane Brothers. Five Adult lionesses and their nine cubs fled Mala Mala and have moved into more Northern and Western areas from Mala Mala. They have been frequenting the Djuma Game Reserve area during the last week in April and into the second week of May. The two missing Styx Lionesses were denning in Mala Mala's Campbell Koppies area with two small cubs. One cub is estimated to be 3 months old and the other 2 months old. They are said to be Mapogo cubs.
May 10th 2009 update on the Two Mapogos and the Styx Pride: With the bulk of the Styx Pride and cubs still remaining outside of their Mala Mala territory, reports from Mala Mala indicate that Kinky Tail and one of the MoHawk boys are now spending a great deal of time with the two Styx lionesses left behind with the two small cubs around the Campbell Koppies.
The two cubs were thought to be one from each lioness as they are noticeably different in size. That theory was put in doubt this past week when the older Styx lioness was seen mating with both Mapogo Males for four consecutive days. She was seen a week or so ago with a severe puncture wound to her skull and badly limping. She was progressing in her recovery but is now sporting another new puncture wound and again limping badly since the aggressive mating sessions. During some of the mating period, the younger lioness and the two small cubs were nearby.
Another strange occurrence was when Mala Mala rangers came across another Styx Lioness with two recently born cubs. Barely able to walk, it seemed the lioness was leading them to a new den site. They hoped the little ones would survive the journey.
Additional May 2009 reports: Arathusa reported it was believed the Styx were involved in a fight probably with some of the Mapogos at Arathusa's airstrip. The pride was split up and some members were seen at the airstrip searching for their missing members. The lionesses viewed showed signs of a battle. One lioness had a serious injury to her left shoulder and was not doing too well. On the next sighting, 3 lionesses and 1 cub (including the injured lioness) were on a warthog kill. The next morning they were happy to report that 2 more lionesses and 5 cubs had returned. Thus 5 lionesses and 6 cubs were seen. Three cubs were still missing.
Add to the above report sightings at Djuma, Mala Mala and Arathusa, things are not looking good for the Styx Pride:
May 25, 2009: Sighting on Wildearth.tv of one lioness identified as a Styx Lioness and one cub in Djuma.
Mala Mala Reports - On the 24th of May, two of the older cubs were seen all alone but appeared to be in good condition. They were calling for the rest of the pride or their siblings.
The next day (25th), at the site where the 2 Styx girls have the young cubs, a lone older cub was found not far away. It was thought to be one of the older cubs seen the night before. One of the younger Adult lionesses appeared but was not welcomed by the two lionesses with the young cubs. The young adult lioness was said to be extremely emaciated and in poor condition. She kept her distance from the other 2 adults due to their aggressive behavior towards her and joined the single older cub.
The following day (26th), the bulk of the pride was found, 3 adults and 6 cubs South of the Clarendon open area.
May 30th 2009 - The Styx Pride was observed on Djuma by Wildearth.tv around Vuyatela Lodge. The pride during this viewing only consisted of four lionesses and six cubs.
June 14th & 15th 2009 - Seen near the Quarantine area of the Djuma Game Reserve. On the sighting of the 14th, viewed were three adult lionesses and five cubs. On the 15th, after an apparent Wildebeest kill, there were four adult lionesses and five cubs present.
June 16th & 17th 2009 - Again viewed in the Djuma Game Reserve. Both sightings included four lionesses and five cubs. The pride enjoyed an impala kill each day. On the 17th, two adult lionesses were limping. One with wounds to the front right leg/foot and the other limping badly from what was possibly a thorn in her front right paw.
June 22nd 2009 - Four Styx Lionesses and five of the older cubs were viewed by Mala Mala. It was the fourth day of veiwing the pride and it was noted the one young adult lioness as well as four of the cubs were still missing. The pride appeared nervous on the 22nd and the cubs remained hidden in the bush until coming out to rest during the heat of the day. None seemed to have any visible wounds even though many male lion tracks had been seen in the area.
June 28th - 29th 2009 - Two of the Styx Lionesses that usually remain in Mala Mala with the two youngest cubs, joined the two Mapogo Males, Kinky Tail and Mr T, on a buffalo kill near Twin Dams, Djuma and right off Gowrie Main Rd. The two Mapogo Males had been on the kill since June 23rd.
During this same time period, Mala Mala reported an incident on the 26th of June where one of the Mapogo Males accompanied by the oldest lioness that is usually with the two youngest cubs were chasing three of the other Styx Lionesses. The three lionesses ran South but eventually skirted around their pride sister and the Mapogo male and returned North. It was assumed that the bulk of the pride may have been attacked by the Mapogo Males and the three lionesses had led them away from the other lioness that would have tried to get the cubs to safety. No sightings of the rest of the pride, so the outcome and well being of the other lioness and the five cubs is unknown at this time.
June 30th, 2009 - The four Styx Lionesses with the older cubs had reunited after the altercation a few days prior with the Mapogos. It was reported that the missing 5th Lioness had returned and appeared in good health. What has become of the 4 missing cubs is yet unknown.
July 10, 2009 - The pride tried unsuccessfully to take down a couple of buffalo bulls in Mala Mala.
July 11, 2009 - The lionesses with the five older cubs were seen on Africam's Nkorho cam. A quick drink and they were off again.
July 12, 2009 - They were seen in Djuma by the Djuma Bush Lodge Rangers. Seems they are trying to stay one step ahead of the two Mapogo Males, Kinky Tail and Mr T, that seem set on taking them under their control.
Update thru Oct. 2, 2009 - Report of a Styx Lioness being Killed: There seemed to be confusion on which Styx lioness was killed towards the end of Aug 2009. It is, however, now believed the lioness killed was the old lioness that had remained in Mala Mala along with one younger lioness when the rest of the pride fled with the older cubs after attacks by two Mapogo/Eyrefield males. The old lioness and the younger lioness had two young cubs apparently fathered by the two Mapogo/Eyrefield males known as Kinky Tail and Mr T and thus did not flee from them. The younger female took over the maternal care for both small cubs said to be about a month apart in age while the old lioness endured aggressive mating sessions with the two males. These mating sessions left the old lioness with severe wounds on a number of occasions.
Towards the end of Aug. the two males killed a hippo in Londolozi and the old lioness was severely injured either during a feeding frenzy or aggressive mating. Elephant Plains reports the back part of her spine was snapped during an apparent feeding frenzy. She eventually died from her injuries near Camp Dam. Her body was pulled into the dam and fed off of by crocs.
Since the death of the old lioness in Aug., the surviving female has been struggling with providing for the two younger cubs. They have been seen on occasions to be very thin and weak. Only time will tell if these youngsters will survive.
The other group of the Styx Pride consists of 5 adult lionesses and 5 surviving older cubs. Sadly, one of the younger adult lionesses from this group has been missing now for a few months. Her whereabouts at this time are unknown.
The first week of September, while in Djuma, the 4 lionesses and 5 older cubs had a run in with two of the Mapogos. The pride fled and in the process lost one of the cubs. The cub was found alone and remained so for about a week and a half. Thankfully, the pride found her and on the next sighting the cub was looking none the worse for her ordeal.
As of this writing though, more trouble seems to have fallen upon this pride. All nine, 4 adults and 5 cubs, were on a buff kill a few days ago in Mala Mala. On the next day's sighting, only one adult female along with 3 of the cubs could be found. Another adult lioness was reported mating with one of the two Mapogo/Eyrefield males, Kinky Tail and Mr T. We've seen actions like this before with the Styx Lionesses, when one of the females will attempt to placate the threatening males by being submissive to mating in an effort to give the rest of the pride a chance to escape and get the cubs to safety. Is this the case again?
It seems this pride has nowhere to run to. They have had run ins with the two Mapogo/Eyrefield males, the Tsalala Pride, the Eyrefield Pride, the Windmill Pride, and even went up against the two new and very aggressive males coming out of Manyeleti. It would be a shame to see the demise of this pride. Hopefully, never again will they be dubbed "Bad Moms".
Oct 9th 2009 Update: The core pride was found in the morning of Oct 4th in Mala Mala and all had been reunited with the exception of the one adult lioness that is still mating with one of the two Mapogo/Eyrefield/Mlowathi males. She has been joined by the single lioness that recently lost the two youngest cubs.
The next report was of the core pride, 3 adult lionesses and 5 cubs (1 male, 4 female), heading towards the elephant carcass at Chitwa. The next day they were reported feeding off of the carcass.
Oct 8th, all 8 were spotted at Twin Dams in Djuma during the early AM. That evening they got active, killed an impala that was quickly eaten, and then continued East into Torchwood.
The evening of Oct 9th, there was a brief sighting of a pride of lions that looked to be the Styx Pride drinking at Nkorho Pan. The didn't stay long and appeared to be hunting.
January 1st 2010 - The once dominant male of the Styx Pride has died. R.I.P. Rollercoaster Male. You were a Magnificent Lion .... Roar on! Four of his cubs with the Styx pride still survive (3 females, 1 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
Update July 9, 2010 - After repeated attacks mostly from the two Mapogo/Mlowathi males (Mr T & Kinky Tail) the Styx pride are down to only 3 youngsters known to be surviving at this time (1 sub male and 2 sub females). In June, one adult Styx female was found dead in Londolozi. Most likely she was killed by the Tsalala pride. It is believed she was the lone Styx lioness with recently born cubs.
During most of June, 4 adult lionesses and 4 sub adults were being seen usually in separate groups. The young male had been injured and one of the sub females was also injured and in very poor condition with mange. Eventually, the young female disappeared. The young male seems to have recovered.
The most recent reports have been of only 3 adult lionesses and the 3 sub adults. The 4th adult lioness is missing and may be dead. More than likely she is the one that was attacked while her and another Styx lioness were feeding on a kill in Mala Mala. It was two of the Majingilanes that attacked her.
Could it be the once seven strong Styx lionesses are now down to only three adults surviving?
Hard times ahead for all the lion prides in the area with a new young coalition that are staking out territory. They are the Majingilane Coalition. First being 5 until June 8th when they came into contact with the two Mapogo/Mlowathi males near Nkorho. One of the young coalition was killed that morning and that evening the 4 remaining young males fought and killed Kinky Tail (Mapogo/Mlowathi male). Mr T, Kinky Tail's brother, was injured in the confrontation but escaped.
July 23, 2010. A Styx lioness was found dead and savagely eaten in Djuma. Near her carcass was one of the Majingilane males. It has since become evident that the dead lioness was one of the two remaining sub adult females.
Oct 2010 finds the Styx usually scattered into smaller groups. The young male is sometimes on his own for weeks at a time but seems to be fairing well. On occasions he rejoins the rest of the pride or is accompanied by the surviving sub adult female. The Styx lioness seem to have accepted the Majingilanes and have been mating with them on a number of occasions. It has even been reported that some of the Majingilanes have been viewed feeding with the Styx to include the young male as well as with the Golf Course male.
This next video recorded on Sept. 5, 2010 shows the 5 Styx pride members on a sighting along with the two Nkuhuma young males. One of the Styx lionesses, thought to be the oldest (Grandma), seemed to be not welcomed at the feeding and was chased away several times. Both the sub adult male and female were allowed to feed.
Video by Banditt066
December 2010 Update - The five members of the Styx pride are still alive. On many occasions the young Styx male is on his own or in the company of the young Styx female. At times, all five are reunited. It appears that some of the adult females may be pregnant. They have accepted the Majingilane males and may soon bear cubs sired by them.
Simbambilli reported in their Dec 20th Blog that reports had come in from the East of the four Majingilane males attacking the young Styx male. His submissive posture helped prevent him from serious injuries and he escaped. Read about it here: http://african-leopard-safaris.blogspot.com/2010/12/13th-to-20th-december-2010.html
December 21st, sadly three adult Styx lionesses killed a young cub (approximately 11 weeks old) belonging to the Ostrich Koppies/Ripape female leopard. This took place in MalaMala.
December 27th, the three adult lionesses along with the sub adult female were in MalaMala. The young male was reported by Arathusa to be on his own and just North of the MalaMala boundary.
An interesting story from MalaMala of the young Styx male going up a tree to steal a leopard's kill. Though he made it down from the tree, one of the adult lionesses had a tad bit more problems with her descent from the same tree. Read about it on MalaMala's Cyberdiary dated Dec 12, 2010 - http://blog.malamala.com/index.php/2010/12/cyberdiary-12-december-2010/ .
Other interesting traits to the Styx Pride.
They seem to have a true hatred of Leopards. There are numerous reports of them chasing leopards and killing them. They are the pride reported to have killed the White Cloth female leopard’s 18 month old son in of June 2007. Also for killing the Campbell Koppies female leopard’s 3 yr old daughter, known as “Yo” on Mala Mala, in January 2008. There have been reports of them chasing different leopards at different locations all in a matter of hours. It seems the Styx pride takes their hatred of leopards to an extreme.
One of the older lionesses who has two cubs is known for taking down adult Kudu on her own. Her and her young cubs seem to be well fed due to her excellent hunting techniques. She is a brave old lady also, when she and her two young cubs were on one of her Kudu kills along with the Roller Coaster male (he never misses a free meal), the Eyrefield pride approached 12 strong (3 adult lionesses and 9 sub adults) and though strongly out numbered she managed to chase off the entire Eyrefield Pride and retain her well earned meal. A few bad scratches were all she received from the encounter.
This old lioness is the same one that gave birth right next to a game drive vehicle that was viewing the rest of the Styx pride in July 2008. The vehicle couldn’t move off as they were afraid their movement would put more pressure from an already intense moment thus they had to wait till the birthing process was over. Below is a video of the birth recorded by Ranger Graham Dyer that day.
Styx Lioness Giving Birth
We’ll end this story with a recent video of a Styx Pride Reunion by mabuhr. It just makes you want to say awww…
Styx Pride Reunion
Putting the Styx Pride story down in writing is very hard as there are so many chapters in their lives. We can only hope, with the new cubs, the Styx Pride will remain in existence for at least another two and a half decades.
Please remember, this information is not set in stone as it is an evolving story and there are conflicting accounts.
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Updated December 2010
Aquila & Karen in VA