West Street Males
The old West Street Males have been seen for the last time!
Early in the month, both West Street Males were still alive, and were seen with Eyrefield Pride members in the south of the reserve. Neither of the two old warriors looked as if they had too many weeks of life left in them. One of the West Street Males (the one with the top of an ear missing) disappeared very early in the month, but a report of a very old, sick-looking lion near the reserve's western boundary towards the middle of the month, suggests that this was the lion in question.
Over that same period, the other West Street Male was seen regularly with several Eyrefield Pride members, and fed on two of their buffalo kills. He was not a pretty sight, and had nasty wounds on his head and feet, perhaps inflicted by the Rollercoaster Males while in the south of the reserve. Even when he had eaten many kilograms of buffalo, this West Street Male's ribs and backbone were showing, as much of the flesh on his once magnificent body had wasted away. Even his mane, for many years impressive, was now short and sparse. Yet there was still spirit in his movements and a glint in his eyes, and he was even seen to romp playfully with the young males of the Eyrefield Pride on one occasion. A few days after finishing the second buffalo kill, the West Street Male was found to have split up from his 6 companions of recent days, perhaps too weak to keep up with them. Sabi Sand Wildtuin authorities adjudged that his condition was such that it would be kindest to put him down, and so this was done just before the end of August. A post mortem showed that his lungs were riddled with bovine tuberculosis, a chronic disease which often leads to steady deterioration in the condition of old lions.
Whatever the fate of the other West Street Male was, it is highly unlikely that he had as easy an exit from life as the male with the torn nose. And so ends another era!
The West Street Males (five of them at the time) took over from the Manyeleti Males in 1998, probably as 8-year old lions, and they gave great stability to the Eyrefield Pride, siring a good many youngsters, of which a healthy number survived. The West Street Males will certainly be long remembered as one of the most successful coalitions of male lions that Mala Mala has seen.
The two old West Street Males really looked haggard in July, but they are still around! The one with the torn nose seems to have deteriorated in condition faster than his colleague, but both of them are very resilient old campaigners, and may yet surprise us with how long they are going to live. The male lion with the torn nose spent some time in the far south of the reserve, in the company of a sub-adult male of the Eyrefield Pride. A little later in the month, he was back in the north again, now with the other West Street Male and many members of the Eyrefield Pride. The West Street Male with the tip of an ear missing was seen to view a buffalo herd on the airstrip with a great deal more respect than he would have a year ago.
The two old West Street Males were seen together at the beginning of the May-report-period, then separated and reunited a month later. The West Street Male with the torn nose spent a fair amount of time with the young adult male of the Eyrefield Pride near the southern parts of the reserve, an area in which the Windmill Pride was operating and which has yet to be fully claimed by other male lions following the demise of the Ridge Rocks Males half-a-year-or-so ago. Here the two males, one in the beginning of his prime, the other clearly beyond it, ruled supreme. On one occasion, together with one of the three-and-a-half-year-old males of the Eyrefield Pride, they chased the Windmill Pride from the carcass of an adult waterbuck and claimed it for themselves. This action was almost certainly the catalyst for the Windmill Prides' vacating of the area and moving many kilometres north.
The other West Street Male, the one which is missing the tip of his one ear, spent a great deal more time with lionesses of the Eyrefield Pride, this towards the northern parts of the reserve. The two Split Rock Males, which have been pressurising the West Street Males for many months now, again appeared to pull back and really weren't particularly active in West Street Male territory. One wonders just how much of this West Street Male survival is due to the presence of the young Eyrefield Male as well as the five sub adult males in the pride. All together, they would form something of a protective shield against outside aggression directed primarily towards the ageing West Street Males.
Although the two old West Street Males spent a fair amount of time with the Eyrefield Pride this month, they also made a slight break from this routine and headed off on their own, patrolling what is considered their territorial boundaries and following buffaloes. It was on central Charleston that they were first seen together and away from the Eyrefield Pride, this perhaps coinciding with a male lion mating with one of the Windmill Pride lionesses only a few kilometres from where they were lying. Thereafter they moved northwards and joined up with the Eyrefield Pride on the airstrip where they stayed for a few days before being chased off a wildebeest kill by the Split Rock Males.
This incident caused them to vanish for nearly two weeks before reappearing along the Kapen River, alone again and on patrol. Their route took them to eastern Flockfield and the Large Herd of Buffaloes, which they followed for a couple of days before leaving them, apparently without attempting to attack. And this was the last seen of them for the month. At the moment the challenge on them from the two Split Rock Males seems to have receded somewhat, perhaps because the Split Rock Males have been concentrating on other things. But, when they have time on their hands once more, perhaps the West Street Males will again come under greater pressure.
The West Street Males soldiered on, probably keeping alive by staying almost permanently with the Eyrefield Pride. There were no sightings of these two old male lions on their own this month and encounters were relatively few, suggesting that they probably spent more time to the south and west of their range than has been the case in previous months. This could very well have been due to the continued pressure which these two males have been under from the two Split Rock Males, the male lions from the northern parts which are pushing further and further into West Street Male territory.
Strangely enough, the two West Street Males are potentially facing another threat, and that is from their own sons. There are five young male lions now with the Eyrefield Pride, the youngest over two years of age and the oldest over three-years-old. These youngsters are now big solid lions and when meat is on offer, they fight for it and fight with increasing ferocity. At one incident this month, when the two West Street Males were fighting for a share of an impala carcass, the young male lions came pouring in and in the fracas which ensued, the old West Street Males found themselves dislodged and fighting hard for even a small piece of meat!
February saw the two old West Street Males get back together again and then join up with the Eyrefield Pride once more, this following their separation and extensive solo-wanderings last month. Once they operated with other lions again, they seemed to do quite well and, although they remained lean for most of the time, certainly seemed to be in quite good condition.
The West Street Male which is missing the tip of one of his ears was first seen this month being chased by a large herd of buffaloes that he was trying to stalk and then, a few days later, took over the remains of a buffalo carcass from the lionesses of the Windmill Pride on eastern Flockfield, an area seldom visited by either the West Street Males or the Eyrefield Pride. Thereafter he joined with his brother. Although the northern limits of their territory were 'invaded' by the Split Rock Males at least once, the two old West Street Males weren't seen to respond and one can't but help getting the feeling that they're simply passing the time, staying out of trouble and hoping to survive as long as possible by this process of evasion.
This month wasn't so good for the West Street Males and they really appear to be on a rapid slide to the end now. There were no sightings of the two together and they seemed to spend, relative to other months, little time with the Eyrefield Pride.
The West Street Male with the injured nose spent much of the time, it seemed, in the south of the reserve and even west of this, in areas really not considered to be their territory. And, whilst he was here, his brother, the male which is missing the tip of one ear, roamed the northern parts. This behaviour of course, was also just what the Split Rock Males needed and they ventured far south and weren't challenged by the West Street Males. One of the striking things about how these male lions are moving around is just how little roaring there has been. With territories being realigned, the advertising of strength would, one expects, be a priority and roaring is one of the best of ways. But it's been quiet. Perhaps the West Street Males just have absolutely no fight left in them and the Split Rock Males sense this and are simply taking their land with little effort.
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