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Earlier this year we interviewed Courteney Blunden from Africa on Foot who shared the history and his personal accounts about one of the most famous lion mega-prides at Klaserie Private Nature Reserve – the Ross Pride. Today the pride, despite its tumultuous history and fears concerning dwindling numbers, is growing from strength to strength. But what does the future hold?

A Ross Pride lioness with one of her cubs. The pride's most recent litter of cubs appear to be doing well. © Kevin MacLaughlin
A Ross Pride lioness with one of her cubs. The pride’s most recent litter of cubs appear to be doing well. © Kevin MacLaughlin

According to Blunden,  much of the Ross Pride’s behaviour is documented because of the colourful tapestry of events that have plagued the lions’ past. The pride has lost cubs, and endured dominant leaders and many incidences of splitting – the story is dramatic. As of 2013, however, the pride can be considered a strong one – it has risen and reigns once more throughout Klaserie. But how did this mega-pride go through so many changes yet manage to pull through with such a fighting spirit?

From 2006 to 2008 the Ross Pride dominated Klaserie, partly due to the fact that its members were contained within the reserve by a fenced-off farm in the south and the double-fenced road that led to nearby Timbavati. The only other lions spotted during these years were the occasional nomadic male and a small pride of three lions. There was no real threat of other prides moving into the area.

With plentiful food and water, life is good for the lions at Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. © Carolynne Higgins
With plentiful food and water, life is good for the lions at Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. © Carolynne Higgins

In 2008 the fences between Klaserie and Timbavati were dropped and wildlife could move into previously unexplored areas. This brought a variety of fresh challenges, with an additional threat posed by new prides trying to stake their claim on the extended territories. However, the larger prides never moved into each other’s kingdoms with any intention of dominating the area. At this stage the Ross Pride was a mega-pride, with 20 twenty adult females and eight cubs under one aggressive ruler – King Scarface, the ultimate King of the Jungle.

Ross Pride King, caption]Satisfied after a recent meal, the Ross Pride's king takes a rest. © Carolynne Higgins
Ross Pride King, caption]Satisfied after a recent meal, the Ross Pride’s king takes a rest. © Carolynne Higgins

After some time, two dominant aggressive males appeared from deep within the heart of the Klaserie and ousted Scarface from his throne. It is estimated that 10 of the females accepted the two brothers and the pride became splintered. The incomers created a new gene line with 14 cubs. Unfortunately both the males passed away and, after encounters with other prides and nomadic males, the Ross Pride became depleted. Territories were not safe and the remaining females and cubs ended up having to scavenge for food. The few members that were left were barely sighted in Klaserie.

Then, with a stroke of luck, in 2012 three females were seen with two males from Timbavati. Sightings became more regular and new cubs were born (these later passed away, unfortunately, when their mother became injured and could no longer care for them).

A healthy Ross Pride cub. © Mike and Fiona Clark

A healthy Ross Pride cub. © Mike and Fiona Clark

This year, another litter of cubs was born. To date, they have been spotted by guests and guides at Africa on Foot on numerous occasions. Initially sheltered in a den area, they are now seen bounding around with the rest of the pride.

A sub-adult male from the Giraffe Pride. Despite their relative lack of strength and maturity, young members of the incoming pride are a challenge to the Ross Pride 'boys'. © ]Kevin MacLaughlin
A sub-adult male from the Giraffe Pride. Despite their relative lack of strength and maturity, young members of the incoming pride are a challenge to the Ross Pride ‘boys’. © Kevin MacLaughlin

What is next in store for the Ross Pride? At the moment, the Ross Pride has a huge territory extending throughout the Klaserie/Timbavati area – there are no other dominant males their size. Then I heard about the rumoured presence of males of the Giraffe Pride in the territory and chatted to Blunden. The young males of the incoming pride are taking chances here, he told me, despite not being physically fit and powerful enough to challenge the Ross Pride ‘boys’.

What will happen in 2014? Will the Giraffe Pride males try to oust the Ross Pride when they have developed into fully fledged kings? Only time will tell.

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Carolynne Higgins

Carolynne Higgins loves life, sometimes a little bit too much, she admits freely. This quality became evident at university, where she managed nevertheless to finish her degree in English, teach herself web design & SEO, study copywriting and cartooning. She's passionate about photography, writing, sketching, design, travelling and the outdoors. Recently, she has developed an odd obsession with a lion pride in South Africa's Klaserie Nature Reserve, near Kruger. Her interests are sometimes a little bit offbeat as she doesn’t particularly care for the normal, and her 'winging it' approach to travelling has led her into some interesting situations. If something's boring, Carolynne will ensure it becomes an adventure. Her current position at Sun Destinations, a company that handles marketing, sales and reservations for a number of camps and lodges, manages to curb her not-being-able-to-sit-still problem and allows her to write about travel … and travel.