Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Mapogo story.

We (Karen in VA and Aquila) were asked to share some bits of information/background on the Mapogo Male Coalition with you. We have been gathering info from various sites (Mala Mala, Londolozi, Djuma, Nkorho, Elephant Plains, Singita, Arathusa, Ulusaba, Wildwatch) and their sightings databases along with a few helpful people answering the questions we sent their way.
Some of this information was first part of a Database that we were compiling for Africam. Graham asked if we would share this with the WE Viewers as well. We hope you find this info as interesting as we have.
Misty morning 03/05/08
Mapogo Coalition - 6 Male Lions also known as the Eyrefield Males, the Sparta Males and in some regions the "Cannibals". They were named Mapogo after a security company that utilizes rather harsh methods in dealing with offenders. We've found several different meanings for Mapogo.
Ulusaba refers to it as meaning "Vigilantes" and Savanna Lodge refers to the Mapogo name being a Zulu word meaning "Rogues". What ever the meaning, they are Bad News!
Pride they Originated From: Eyrefield Pride aka Sparta Pride. This pride still exists and consists of 3 adult females and 9 cubs. Two of the remaining Eyrefield pride lionesses are siblings of the Mapogos and the third and oldest lioness may very well be the Mother to some of them. The dominant male of this Pride today is the one remaining Roller Coaster/Shaw/Castleton Male.
Sired by: A Coalition of 5 Male Lions known as The West Street Males aka The Sparta Males. (Note: There is a twist to this story that we will share
a little later.)

1st day WE saw them on cam 12/27/07

These males took over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride from
the Manyeleti males in 1998. They were approximately 8 yrs of age at the time and successfully raised many cubs to adulthood during their reign.
The last of this coalition died in 2004 at the approximate age of 14 years or even older (some reports indicated the last two were plus/minus 16 yrs in 2003 when two of the original four Marthly/Split Rock/Robson males moved in).

After lioness & cubs were killed 03/13/08
The Oldest Mapogo Male is said to be unrelated to the other 5. The story is that the original pride (Eyrefield/Sparta) lost a male sub adult of 20 to 21 months of age in May/June 2000 and in July 2000 this male of about the same age latched on to the original pride. Though not readily accepted by the lionesses, the West Street Males barely tolerated him though they didn't kill him as he was no threat to their dominance due to his age.
His life was not an easy one as he was considered an outcast, yet this young lion became one of the boldest and most valued hunters by helping to keep the pride fed when the West Street males became too old.
Londolozi refers to the oldest Mapogo male as "Ngalalalekha". Ngala means lion so does lalekha mean "old, older, oldest"? Good question for Rexon. Mr T After lioness & cubs were killed 03/13/08
This oldest Male is elusive. He is said to be bigger, bolder and darker than the other five. He is believed to be the sire of most of the Mapogo cubs that have been born so far but with more recent reports of matings it seems some of the other males will become fathers too if not already.
Prides that currently have cubs sired by a Mapogo are the Tsalala pride, the Othawa pride and the Sand River pride. More than likely, there are others as well.
One story about this older male that sticks out in our minds is when Londolozi reported a sighting of two hyena clans on a buffalo carcass. A group of approximately 25 adult elephants standing shoulder to shoulder with little ones behind them were staring the hyenas down. A noise was heard behind the vehicle and when the spotlight was shown in that direction an "enormous" male lion burst into their sight roaring louder than any roar they had ever heard before which sent 30 hyenas scattering. It was the leader of the six Mapogos. He stared down the wall of elephants which after about 5 minutes of standing their ground finally gave way to the lone male and moved off.
Giraffe Steal from Nkuhuma 01/12/08
The Other 5 Mapogo Males are said to be sired by the West Street Males but here is where the twist comes in...... the two youngest might have been sired by the Roller Coaster Males aka Shaw Males aka Castleton Males. The Roller Coaster males were believed to have started out as a Coalition of 6. Four of which enticed some of the Eyrefield/Sparta females into mating with them while the aging West Street males were away from the pride. Thus it is unclear who actually fathered the two youngest. And to add another little twist, it is said that the West Street Males who sired the Mapogos also fathered the Roller Coaster/Shaw/Castleton males.
Estimated ages of the Mapogo Coaliton as of May 2008:
Older Unrelated Male - 9 yrs 7 mos
Two Older Related Males - 7 yrs 4 1/2 mos
One a Little Younger Male - 7 yrs 2 mos
Two youngest males (possibly sired by the Roller Coaster Males) - 6 yrs 6 mos

Giraffe Steal from Nkuhuma 01/12/08

As you can see, the Mapogo Coalition is not the first nor will it be the last large coalition. Being the first large coalition the WE viewers have encountered, it is hard to comprehend that the current lion population can survive with all these killings but they will. The survivors of this onslaught will be the "new" beginning, the "next" generation just as the survivors of past large coalitions were. We don't like it and we don't have to like it but sadly it is the nature of things.
How have they impacted the lion population in just the couple of years they have been independent? Here are a few reports:
Londolozi reports five prides that have been adversely affected by the Mapogos. They cited these three: Castleton Pride originally 22 and down to 6; Tsalala Pride originally 10 and down to 5; Ximunvanyane Pride originally 10 down to ZERO. We can say fairly confidently, the number of prides adversely affected has risen since the Londolozi report.
Elephant Plains reported recently of receiving a report from Sabi Sands stating almost 40% of the lion population has been killed by the Mapogo Coalition in just the past year. That relates to approximately 50 lions.
(Our thoughts: Do these numbers also include deaths that occurred from the pressure that the Mapogo coalition has put on other prides and coalitions in the Sabi Sands area?)

Giraffe Steal from Nkuhuma 01/12/08
Quote from Elephant Plains referencing the Mapogos "Killing buffalo, adult giraffes, even young rhinos and hippos. And lions. And they were not just killing the lions..they were eating them"
More on their cannibalistic ways. On February 7th 2007, the Mapogos not only brutally killed "Rocky" aka the Serengeti/Kruger male but they ate him. "Rocky" was the dominant male that sired the 6 cubs of the two younger Tsalala pride lionesses. All those cubs have been killed except for one sub adult female. Currently the Tsalala pride falls under the dominance of the Mapogos. In the same report where Singita tells of "Rocky's" death, they mention the Mapogos being seen eating a dead lioness the previous year.
Hyenas better watch out too! We haven't seen any reports of them eating Hyenas but they do kill them as shown in this sighting from Singita.
Recently, the Elephant Plains Newsletter had a graphic photo of a Mapogo Male with a Hyena in it's mouth. Though the Hyena was not killed on the spot, it died from the injuries sustained.
Knowing how much we all love the Nkuhuma pride, we will only post the link to the killing of Blondie by the Mapogo Males. Reported by Arathusa, Dec 14, 2007. (Note: This is a PDF file)
The Mapogo Males not only kill other males' cubs but cubs of their own.
Ulusaba reported in June 2007 that a split in the coalition had occurred (though this split seems to have only been temporary). During this report period the 5 related Mapogos killed the oldest unrelated Mapogo's cubs belonging to the Othawa lionesses.
The Mapogos seem to have banded back together as a coalition after the short term split in 2007, Ulusaba reported in March 2008 that the coalition had joined the Sand River pride on one of their occasional visits to see their offspring. They all shared in two wildebeest kills including the FIVE male cubs (beginning of another large coalition?). One of the cubs thought it would be fun to slap his sleeping Father on the nose. Boy oh boy did he find out that was a mistake. His Father exploded to his feet bearing down on the defenseless cub! Luckily, all the little one got was a good swat to his backside. LOL After some Motherly reassurance, the cub decided his siblings were a better target for that type of play.
Items that may be of Interest:
Mr T patrolling alone 02/03/08
To give you an idea of their strength, here is an awesome video posted by Youtube member mattwood22. Taking down a Buffalo Bull - January 2006. The dark mane one is the "oldest" Mapogo and there is one lioness with them also on this kill.
It is only fair to show a softer side of the Mapogos. This article from Exeter/Wildwatch is about a sighting of one of the Mapogo Males (probably the oldest) interacting with his cubs. It includes some great pictures. After lioness & cubs were killed 03/13/08
We hope this information has been helpful and may shed a new light on these bad boys. Are they BAD? Yes! Are they any worse than other large coalitions? Probably not, with the possible exception of their cannibalistic ways.. they tend to take that to an Extreme!
Please remember, this information is not set in stone as it is an evolving story and there are conflicting accounts.
Written by Aquila and Karen in VAJust lying around 04/08/08


Auntie Lyn said...

Absolutely stunning and well written article about the Mapogo's! My hats off to Aquila and Karen in Va for all they have accomplished in compiling this information. It can only lead to a better understanding of the mechanics of this new breed of coalition activity in the Lions. I hope that all lodges and rangers in the Sabi Sands area take note of this article.

Lily said...

Wonderful account of these big guys, Karen and Aquila. It is great to read of the complicated twists and turns they have taken to get to the present. You certainly have conveyed the impact they have made on Sabi Sands, and it is great to have it all in one place to read. You have lots of follow-up chapters in your future. Thanks for doing this.

Stacy said...

I think that the Mapogos are magnificant in their own light. Whether it be because of their fierceness or because of their savagery...they have earned their title.

Such is life in the African wild, I hope that the Mapogos stick their heels into the Djuma area. I look forward to observing these amazing animals in the future. The circle of life has begun and there is a new sherrif in town so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Karen and Aquila !!! You two have put in a lot of time and hard work researching the "bad boys". Very interesting !!!


kiotewoman said...

Wow! Great story Aquila & Karen. I thought these guys were bad before, but I just didn't know how bad. Thanks for sharing this information. Well done!

LadyDoc said...

Wow- a great summary!!! Thanks so much for all the time and effort to put together this information.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great info,ladies. Thanks for posting that and telling us "the rest of the story"

Sharon in Texas

Fabienne said...

Thanks Karen and Aquila for this wealth of information! Amazing what you've gathered, seems like quite a study!
I don't like the Mapogo's but you can't help but respect them. That picture with the hyaena in EP newsletter, the images when Pieter found the dead cub... Sent a shiver down my spine, nature can be overwhelming in more than one way. Thank you so much for sharing this info with us and thank you WE for providing a platform.

Rob The Ranger said...

Great Article, well researched, just one correction to thje story- The Ottawa cubs that were killed in early 2007 were sired by the Nhlanguleni male and not the Older of the Mapogo...
We actually watched one of the young male cubs being eaten by "Mr T" close to our lodge (Idube).

Rob the Ranger said...

Quick Background on the name Mapogo...
When these six males first arrived in the west their aggression towards the other lions led to them being referred to as Mapogo a reference to the vigilante group "Mapogo A Mathamaga", renowned for their traditional african style of handing out justice (i.e. beating criminals to submission!). The name comes from a northern sotho proverb; Ge ole nkwe nna ke lepogo ka moka re mathamaga meaning 'if you are a leopard then I am a tiger—we are all equal in strength'. Therefore the word Mapogo tranlates loosely to 'Tigers'

Nancy said...

Just found this article Karen and Aquila. Incredible story. Thank you for your research and the story of these majestic animals.