The Mapogo Lions

The Mapogo Lions

Sara • 04/24/2024


‘Legend’ surmises the reign of the notorious Mapogo lions in the Sabi Sands to perfection. About 12 years ago, you might have seen or heard about these band of brothers that ruled the area with an iron ‘paw’. They were true warriors and proved themselves time after time on the field of battle.

During their prime, 6 of these magnificent specimens patrolled their territory, dispatching all competitors and striking fear into the hearts of all that found themselves in their way. Legend has it that the Mapogo have been responsible for killing in excess of 40 males, females and cubs as they stamped their authority on their domain.

Whole prides have been wiped out in their relentless march for dominance and challengers have been eaten in an act of defiance: a fate almost unheard of in lions. The former warden of the Sabi Sands has been cited saying that he believes them accountable for over 100 lion fatalities although the true number will probably never be known.

These brothers may have a fearsome reputation but their exploits have ensured safe breeding grounds and stability in this area of unusually high competition. Their success has changed the dynamic of the lion population in this area forever. It’s not surprising that litters became more and more skewed in favour of male offspring. This is an inevitable outcome as nature attempts to balance the scales and provide a more level playing field.

In recent years, new and equally formidable coalitions have been responsible for whittling down the Mapogo’s numbers as territorial lines were drawn in the sand and crossed and repeated battles were waged.

Makhulu and Pretty Boy

The Majingilanes in the north and the Southern Pride males in the south have both had their say in the shaping of the new regime and now all that remains of the mighty Mapogo are two aging specimens known as Makhulu and Pretty Boy. Since being overthrown by the Southern Pride males, the last of these legends have been sighted regularly on Sabi Sabi as they search for new territory or maybe just sanctuary as they live out the remainder of their days. At 14 and 12 years of age, they have surpassed the life expectancy of most male lions and carry the scars of years of conflict on the front line.

I can honestly say that I have never witnessed such magnificent specimens as these two remaining legends. Rich De Gouveia

Their eyes bored through you and I bet everyone who came across their path felt a slight pang of uncertainty when they stared back. They have raised the bar as to the expectations of male coalitions in so far as protecting a territory and ensuring their genetic success. They should be seen as role models, not killers.

These tales will no doubt be embellished and exaggerated but this is how great icons are born. Over time, these stories will become myths and myths will become legends: a fitting legacy for the most famous lions of the Sabi Sabi.