There is nothing more magnificent than seeing a powerful adult male lion, resplendent with his impressive mane encircling his head. Such an alpha male, in the prime of his life, is often seen patrolling the boundaries of his territory with fierce determination. Muscles bulging as he strides along, confident, strong and intimidating. His paws the size of a standard dinner plate – one blow and you know you’re done for – enough to send tingles down your spine.
This behaviour is the world of an alpha male: defending the pride’s land by marking the area with urine, and a thunderous roar to warn off potential prowlers. If needed, he will do battle to defend his territory and his pride. The life span of a lion therefore tends to be short and for the most it ends ungraciously and abruptly. Adult males can live up to 12 years of age. The life expectancy of younger lions is much shorter, as the fight for territory is relentless.
Kapama’s oldest male lion carries the proud name – Makulu Madoda – a beautiful specimen, now aged about 15 years. He has held his throne well, but the golden days are fading – especially over the past couple of weeks – the end now seems to be near.
“For a few years, Makulu Madoda was Kapama’s dominant alpha male – and is still the dominant male of his area,” said Pieter Barwise, River Lodge ranger. “The second oldest lion – Moria Madoda, is also a dominant lion in a different territory. He is about 8 years old and is the leader of a pride of 12 lions.”
Moria Madoda’s three sons are at the stage where the testosterone levels are high and the fight for territory gets fiercer. They are ready to challenge all the alpha male lions on Kapama. It won’t be long before the fight for domination begins.
“For Makulu Madoda, the oldest male, this means the end. Being everyone’s favourite will bring many tears to the staff and past guests who have been fortunate enough to get to know this magnificent lion over the years. He is known for his mighty roar – hearing it many times from the lodge. He will be missed,” said Pieter.
“For some lions, Makulu Madoda is the father, and for others the grandfather,” said Collen Maenetja, Buffalo Camp ranger. “I have watched the behaviour of this dominant alpha male over the past few years, seeing him fight, mate and hunt, but now he is difficult to track because of Moria Madoda’s three sons. After my guests and I enjoyed a refreshing sundowner drink recently, we left the area of John’s dam and were fortunate enough to come across the well-known mighty lion of Kapama – Makulu. After quenching his thirst at the nearby dam, he journeyed further down the lonely road.”
For Gregory Heasman, a ranger from Karula, the three sons of Moria – called the Hoedspruit males – soon got the hang of things. “Before we knew it, they were hunting buffalo on a regular basis, making it look easy. After constricting themselves for so many years, they started to move into the territory of Makulu. Three young powerful lions – soon to be dominant males – are a lot stronger than a full grown old male lion. After years of being bullied they are fighting back, taking over territory day by day. They are not stopping anytime soon. They are chasing the dominant male down. This is the life of a male lion. If you are not killing – you are being killed.”
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