An update on the Ndhzenga males

Victoria Nuttall-Smith

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Some time has passed

since we have written a blog on the Ndhzenga males, the coalition dominant across the majority of MalaMala. What started as a coalition of four has been whittled down to a team of two. But let it be known this team of two is nothing to scoff at.

Life as a male lion is fraught with challenges. Constant competition for territory and mating rights means battles with rival males are inevitable. Maintaining dominance demands physical prowess and endurance. This is a concept the Ndhzenga males are intimately acquainted with.


Recently, we have seen them move vast distances in short periods, roaring and scent-marking as they move. Leaving them around Mlowathi Dam at the end of the afternoon drive has become the norm, only to find them in northern Charleston the next day. As the crow flies, these males seem to be travelling upwards of 10km some nights, and they seldom walk as the crow flies.

But what does this mean?

Several factors could be influencing the seemingly haphazard movements of these males:

1) Pressure is mounting: We have witnessed the Black Dam males skirting around in the northern parts of MalaMala. Though this younger coalition is roaring and mating with obliging lionesses, to date, they have always fled from the resounding roars of the Ndhzenga males. In the south, the six Nkhulu males have already displaced the Southern Avoca male, but we haven’t seen them press into Ndhzenga male territory; even so, the calls of a coalition of six might be the reason these males are stretching south to create a buffer. Our eastern boundary is always a mystery, but males in the Kruger may be pressing west. Finally, the Kambula males, offspring of the late Gowrie males, have been back lately, roaring and investigating their natal grounds.

2) They have relied on grit and numbers; their tactic when there were four of them was to divide and conquer. It was rare to see all four of them together. These days, one is never without the other, completing all their dominant duties as a duo. Their new tactic is undoubtedly wise, but it means they’re doing double the work with half the initial workforce.

3) The Kambula lionesses are raising 13 of their cubs, meaning the stakes are higher than ever for these males. It took a while for the Ndhzenga males to produce a promising cohort of cubs with the Kambula pride, but now, their current cubs range between four months and a year. Since these males are well into their prime, this group of cubs are the best chance these males have at perpetuating their genetics.


Unfortunately, for male lions, size matters, and they have never been revered as large males. Hopefully, their efforts will be successful, and they can raise these cubs with Kambula pride.

Travelling to MalaMala