The Notorious Mapogo Lions of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

A coalition that affected the entire ecosystem.

Reports tell a story of how the Mapogo lions decimated the lion population of the Sabi Sands, seriously affecting the entire eco system.

Londolozi reported 5 prides affected:

Castleton Pride: originally 22 down to 6.

Tsalala Pride: originally 10 down to 5.

Ximunvanyane Pride: originally 10 down to 0.

Elephant Plains reported that almost 40% of the lion population had been killed by the Mapogo Coalition.

This means they killed around 40 – 50 lions.2

According to Willem Botha, who was the Assistant Warden and Head of Anti Poaching in Sabi Sands during the time of the Mapogo’s reign, the Mapogos killed closer to 100 lions.

“From the time I first saw them until I left the Sabi Sands, the Mapogos killed between 90 and 110 other lions in the park. I also had to shoot approximately 15 lions that were so badly mauled by the Mapogos that their spines were severed and had to be  put out of their misery.”8

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A Whittling of the Mapogos

Overtime all lion coalitions start to fade as its members get older and as one or two of their members are killed off as younger, stronger coalitions try their luck to win over territory.

The Londolozi area was often patrolled by two of the brothers, Mr T’ and Kinky Tail.

In 2010 a coalition of 5 males called the Majingilanes entered the Mapogo’s territory to begin their challenge and eventually take over. During a buffalo hunt Kinky Tail and Mr T were able to separate one of the new males and began killing him.

The young male’s groin was ripped open. Finally Kinky Tail and Mr T managed to break the Majingilane lion’s spine. He was paralysed and left to die. During the fight the young male managed to rake Mr T’s face and bite his ear.

The death of Kinky Tail

During the same night the 4 other Majingilane lions were seen on the move, hunting down Kinky Tail. He had been led into a trap by two of the new males until he was surrounded by all four challengers. They managed to pin him down, one biting his neck, another his back while a third bit off Kinky Tail’ s testicles and genitalia. They finally snapped his spine.

Mr T tried to rescue Kinky Tail and fight off the Majingilanes but he was greatly outnumbered and had to retreat.

Two of the young lion’s attempted to track and follow after Mr T but were unsuccessful, so they returned to finish off Kinky Tail.

Echoing the Mapogos own cannabalism the 4 lions started eating Kinky Tail’s hind legs and tail. He was being eaten alive.6

Mr T returned to the rest of the coalition. He had not been part of the breeding in the Singita area and proceeded to kill all the cubs in the Western block. This earned him the nickname “Satan”.

Over the next three years another two coalition members disappeared without trace.

The End of The Mapogo’s Reign.

Finally in 2012 the strong Southern Pride clashed with the Mapogos once again and this time they had the advantage. The Mapogos ran retreating to the Savanna property.

To rebuild their strength they hunted the large herd of Buffalo in the area. On one such buffalo kill the Southern Pride managed to relocate them. The Southern Pride males managed to split the Mapogos and went after Mr T.

They finally caught him on the Mackenzie cutline near Savanna’s western boundary. The one Mapogo lion was no match for the four young Southern Pride males. They paralysed him by biting through his spine and then proceeded to tear him apart.

The last remaining Mapogos retreated to Dudley far in the east.

The two remaining Mapogos were Makhulu ( 15 ) and Pretty Boy ( 12 )

What happened next?

As with everything in the wild, nature keeps moving. A new force was starting to show its head, namely the Majingilane Males who would become the Mapogo’s successors.

In 2012 the last two Mapogos were seen together entering the Kruger National Park through the Paul Kruger gate. They were seen again feeding on a buffalo in the same year during October.

Makhulu was seen one last time in January 2013 alone in Mala Mala. Makhulu would have been 16 years old at the time.

Read more about the Majingilane Males.


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