Monday, 22 June 2009

Styx Pride of Lions

With the recent sightings of the Styx Pride within the Djuma Game Reserve, we thought a little background history on them may be enjoyed by the Wildearth.tv viewers.

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.

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 approximately 3 ¾ yrs of age who reached independence around November 2000, and three sub adult females. 4 ¼ yr 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 May 2009

2 Adult lionesses appx 13 yrs and 8 mos

1 Adult lioness 8 yrs and 1 mo - Sired by one of the Mlowathi Males

1 Adult lioness 7 yrs and 3 mos- Sired by one of the Mlowathi Males

2 Adult Lionesses 5 yrs and 9 months - Sired by one of the Split Rock Males

1 Adult Lioness 5 yrs and 7 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.

August 2008

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.

December 2008

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.

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 live on WildEarth.tv on Sept. 2nd, 2008 titled "Styx Pride - Good Moms?".


Find more videos like this on WildEarth.TV

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.

May 17 2009 - Two Mapogo Males (Kinky Tail and Mr T) were viewed on Wildearth.tv early in the AM. One Styx Lioness was with them. Strangely, she laid out in the full sun with her head down with Mr T close by guarding her from escaping. Kinky Tail lay further off and it was apparent he had an injury to his front right foot/leg.

Tracks seen on one of the roadways, indicated there had been a fight between several males. The tracks of the Styx Pride and their cubs were there also. Later in the AM, radio reports indicated that two presumed members of the Mapogo Coalition were chasing the Manyeleti Male. He was chased all the way to the Northern border of Buffelshoek.

After going back to the sighting of the two Mapogos with the Styx Lioness, Mr T had moved off from the lioness to the shade near where his brother lay. The lioness remained in the full sun and looked as if she wanted to be anywhere but there. As Kinky Tail rested, Mr T kept a watchful eye on his prized possession. The Styx girls are known for their cunningness and this lioness proved it once again. She continued her submissive stance until the boys felt comfortable enough to let their guard down and OFF she went leaving the boys in the dust.

Video of her escape:


Find more videos like this on WildEarth.TV

More 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 and Mala Mala and things are not looking good for the Styx Pride:

May 25, 2009: Sighting of one lioness identified as a Styx Lioness and one cub.


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 around Vuyatela. The count seemed to be of only four lionesses and six cubs.

June 14th & 15th 2009 - Seen on Wildearth.tv live drives near 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. (Note: Arathusa reported on their June sighting of this pride, viewed were only four adult lionesses and five cubs, four females and one male)

June 16th & 17th 2009 - Again viewed on Wildearth.tv. 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.

Other interesting traits of 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 outnumbered 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.



We’ll end this story with a recent video of a Styx Pride Reunion by mabuhr. It just makes you want to say awww…



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.

A few photos from the Wildearth.tv cam:





Lion - Wikipedia

More Lion Histories can be found on the Wildearth Ning Lion Database.

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June 2009

By Aquila and Karen in VA

6 comments:

WildEarth said...

What an exceptional level of detail. The amount of research into this Blog is amazing. Thank you both for all your hard work ... WE can't wait to see the next Blogs on the other prides.

Valorie said...

I always enjoy reading these back stories and the stories about what all these lions are up to when WE don't see them on cam.

Thanks to the both of you, I know how much work you put into this and it's very much appreciated!

C. said...

Aquila & Karen, you have done an amazing job of assembling all of this information to give us a better insight into the lives of the Styx Pride.

Thank you both for taking the time to share it with us. I know I really appreciate it as I am sure all other WE fans will too.

CJ in Oregon
Hancock Wildlife Forum

GAA said...

Aquila and Karen, thank you both so much your time and effort to create a bio of the Styx Pride. I appreciate the information and I am sure many others do to.

BBE (B.C. Canada)
Hancock Wildlife Forum

BBE said...

Karen and Aquila, thank you so much for the well written and very informative Blog about the Styx Pride. I always enjoy seeing them.

BBE (B.C. Canada)
Hancock WIldlife Forum

smudger888 said...

Brilliant ladies ! a great read and thanks for all your work on the blog