Witness the extraordinary Black Lion, the world’s most unique big cat

Lions are very capable top predators that can hunt and kill most things that live in their range. They also have an interesting social structure that lends itself to internal fighting and external pressures on the territory. Sometimes, all that power, aggression and social strife can lead to lion stories that are even more entertaining than television dramas. In one case, the world’s deadliest lions reigned over more than 250 square miles of Kruger National Park in South Africa, killing up to 100 other lions and being among the most brutal lions ever observed. Today we watch the rise and fall of the Mapogo lion coalition.


Lions tend to live and hunt in a pride that includes a few males, up to a dozen females, and any cubs the lions have produced. This pride can be as small as three individuals or include up to thirty lions. The territory claimed by this pack tends to increase as the size of the pack increases.

The lion pride will drive out young males at a relatively young age of two or three years. This prevents the young lions from supplanting the leader of the pride. These young lions are incredibly vulnerable as they lose the protection of their group.

The young males will then move on and find another pod, fighting one member to take their place within the group. Over time, young male lions can form their own pride.

Sometimes expelled lion cubs do not try to take over another pride. Instead, they will form a coalition of related male lions. These coalitions will take territory from other packs as their own. The Mapogo coalition in the Kruger National Park was one such group, but its story is even more unique.


The Mapogo lion coalition consisted of six powerful adult males. Five of these males were related and of similar ages, and one was slightly older than the others and tangentially related. The five related lions were descendants of another mega pride that was called Eyrefield Pride, also called Sparta Pride.

Children would imitate parents as adults, but would be even more successful. In 2006, these six male lions were expelled from the pride like most young males. Instead of joining a new pride, the lions stayed together for safety and access to food.

The lions spent the next few years surviving as a coalition. They entered the territory of other lions, chased away the females after a hunt and ate before fleeing from the male lions who owned the territory. They also spent time honing their hunting and teamwork skills. Mapogo lions began making headlines in 2006, when they grew into large, capable adult males.


This coalition of lions was unusual because they formed a band of six males and even more unusual because they were so large and successful. Let’s take a moment to get to know these six incredible mammals.

Makhulu was the oldest member of the lions and also the outsider to the original pride. He was a very large lion and one of the last surviving members. Most of the conflict within the group came from Mr. T, a brutal lion known for his unique mane. These lions represented the two dominant forces within the coalition.

In 2006, the Mapogo lions started making moves. They seized a section of territory in the Sabi Sand Reserve that was governed by the Ottawa Pride. The Ottawa pride included four males, several lionesses and many cubs.

They challenged and killed one of the experienced male lions, dispersing the pride. Then they killed all the puppies in the area and Mr. T may have eaten some of them. By killing all the cubs in the Ottawa pride, the Mapogos could ensure that their cubs would be the only lions born in the area.

This was the beginning of the lions’ reign in the area. Over the next few years, lions would take over an area of ​​170,000 acres (265 square miles) within the park. They conquered areas that were previously ruled by eight other prides, and they didn’t ask those other lions to leave nicely.

In addition to occupying a huge area, Mapogo lions were known for their incredible battle feats. These lions could take down powerful creatures that other lions struggled to kill, including giraffes, hippos, and Cape buffalo.

Throughout their conquest of the western Sabi Sand reserve, the lions completely upset the balance of life in the area. The Mapogo coalition successfully attacked five different lion prides, sometimes eliminating the entire group. The coalition killed between 40 and 100 lions during their reign, easily eliminating rivals to their territory and threats to their lineage.

Mapogo lions killed, dominated new lands and reproduced. They created such chaos during their four-year reign that wildlife officials questioned whether intervening and breaking up the coalition was the right thing to do.

Like many other empires, the Mapogo lions fell due to internal strife. Mr. T’s frequent fights with Makhulu fractured the group, and the former and Kinky Tail moved to another section of their territory.

Kinky Tail was the first lion of the group killed after a new coalition invaded the territory. Mr. T was forced to retreat, was injured, and was reunited with his brothers. During that time, he began killing other lions’ cubs, attempting to become the only breeding lion in some parts of the territory.

Mr T was killed in 2012 by another pride, having far exceeded the life expectancy of wild lions. Scar and Rasta disappeared during this time, possibly kidnapped by poachers. The last two surviving Mapogo lions were Makhulu and Pretty Boy.

Makhulu last appeared in 2013, after turning 16, and it is unknown how he met his end. All the Mapogo lions have now perished, if not from the teeth of other lions, then at least from old age.

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