The Charleston Males Make a Return (and Quite a Stir!)

From early in the morning of 11 July, we could hear the roaring of lions. It’s an exciting sound, not only because it helps us to locate them but also, because we don’t have an established coalition here, it’s not something we hear all that often. Setting out on safari, updates started pouring in over the radio. Our easterly neighbours had heard the vocalizations coming from the south-west, while our neighbours to the south called in the audio to their north-east. With this information, we had a good idea of where to look and headed to the south-east corner of Lion Sands.

One of the guides called in two large, male lions. When I got there, I saw these were definitely not the Avoca males – the two lions we’ve regularly viewed on our reserve in the last few months. These were mighty lions – big, black-maned, and beautiful. Upon closer inspection, we noticed one was missing his lower-right canine – a dead giveaway as to his identity. Even though this was the first time I’d ever seen them, these were unmistakably the Charleston Males. The one male is infamous for an altercation with a giraffe (seen during a Lion Sands game drive), which left him with a hanging tooth that’s since fallen out.

Neil Jennings in line-

Image by Neil Jennings

The lions were walking ‘with purpose.’ It wasn’t a run, but they certainly had a destination in mind and an agenda for when they got there. We followed them on their mission for quite a while. They weren’t interested in hunting either, not at all trying to conceal themselves as we passed several prey species, including some giraffe who kept a steady eye on them.

While we were with the Charlestons, the Avoca males had also been found on the reserve, not far from where we were. They were also roaring, which had drawn the attention of the Charlestons. Apparently, the Avocas had been separated from each other and were trying to reunite. However, this gave their position away to the Charlestons, who were on their way to investigate.

Later on in the morning, after we had left the lions, a few other guides reported that the Charlestons had confronted the Avocas, who are much younger and inferior in size and strength. The Charlestons chased the Avocas out of the territory, moving south into Lion Sands Kruger Park. On the afternoon game drive, the guides and guests there also got the chance to view the Charlestons. By then, they’d succeeded in chasing the Avocas out of Lion Sands altogether, and were resting. That evening, the guides followed them as they continued to wander south, until they eventually moved off our reserve.

Though it was a short visit, I am so happy that I got to see these lions. The last time they were seen on the reserve was August of last year. The Charleston males now hold a territory in the Kruger National Park, but that doesn’t stop them from laying claim to an area they once ruled. As the previous dominant males of Lion Sands and the bloodline of the remaining Southern Pride, they are legends around here. I hope it’s not another year until their next visit (although I’m sure the Avoca males would disagree).

Words by: Ruvan Grobler

Photos by: Anthony Hattingh

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