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HandWiki. Mapogo Lion Coalition. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 14 June 2024).
HandWiki. Mapogo Lion Coalition. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 14, 2024.
HandWiki. "Mapogo Lion Coalition" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 14, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, September 29). Mapogo Lion Coalition. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Mapogo Lion Coalition." Encyclopedia. Web. 29 September, 2022.
Mapogo Lion Coalition

The Mapogo lion coalition was a band of male South African lions that controlled the Sabi Sand region in Kruger National Park. The coalition became infamous for their sheer power and strength in taking over and dominating an area of approximately 70,000 ha (170,000 acres). It is believed the Mapogos killed in excess of 100 lions and cubs in a little over a year. The statistics may be higher given their coverage of such large territories. At its peak, the coalition consisted of six males - the leader Makulu (also spelled as Makhulu), Rasta, Scar, Pretty Boy, Kinky Tail and Mr. T.

makulu lion makhulu

1. History

The Mapogo coalition originated from Mala Mala from what was called the “Eyrefield Pride” (Sparta Pride) and moved into the Western Sector in 2006. The Mapogo lions followed a recent trend in the Sabi Sand Reserve of mega pride male lion coalitions. The five related brothers were sired by a similar mega pride coalition of five male lions.[1] In their quest to dominate the area, the six lions killed approximately 40 other lions which included many cubs, females, and rival adult males.[2]

The oldest Mapogo male, Makulu, is believed to be unrelated to the other five lions. The story is that the original Sparta pride lost a male sub-adult of 20 to 21 months of age in May/June 2000 and in July 2000, this male of about the same age latched on to the original pride. As a result, Makulu was naturally bigger in size than his fellow brothers.[3] Though not readily accepted by the lionesses, the West Street Males tolerated him and didn't kill him, even though typically, intruding males of his age would be chased off or killed. Field experts believe a likely reason for his acceptance into the pride was because he may have been the offspring of one of the West Street Males and a lioness from another pride (therefore making him the Mapogos' half brother).[4]

In the first months of 2006, the five subadult lions and Makulu left their pride. They now had to fight for themselves, but by sticking together they increased their survival chances. Whilst living among themselves, the lions learned to be successful hunters. As they grew in size and experience, they were able to take down large prey such as hippos, young rhinos, and even giraffes. According to Dave Salmoni, successfully taking down cape buffalo was their "key to success". During the buffalo hunts, Kinky Tail (also called Shaka) and Mr. T (also called Satan) were often observed being more aggressive in bringing down the buffalo.

1.1. Rise of the Mapogo Coalition

The Mapogos first pride clash was in 2006. The Mapogo lions entered the northern Sabi Sand, which was ruled by four dominant males. Immediately upon arrival, the Mapogos managed to kill one of the males, and the remaining three were driven off.[5] With the Ottawa pride's male lion driven off, three lionesses and 11 cubs remained. Due to the male lion's natural instincts, the six Mapogos quickly found and killed all 11 Ottawa cubs, with reports of Mr. T even eating some of the cubs, despite cannibalistic behavior in lions being uncommon.

With all competition eliminated, the Mapogos had successfully controlled eight prides. They were the dominant male coalition of Sabi Sand and killed more than 100 lions from the neighbouring prides during their rule.

1.2. Split in the Mapogo Coalition

Despite ruling a large territory, the Mapogo coalition wasn't functioning smoothly due to internal rivalry. Many fights often broke out with the leader Makulu and Mr. T. A closely contested clash then happened with Mr. T and Makulu, in which Makulu managed to grab and bite Mr. T's legs and win the encounter. After this fight, it was observed that Mr. T and Kinky Tail broke off from their four brothers, and headed east to control the northern part of the territory.

Mr. T and Kinky Tail were then seen patrolling and guarding their territory for two years, managing to fight off other rival lions. However, in June 2010, a coalition of five male lions named the Majingilanes entered in Mapogo territory to take over. The five males were witnessed scent-marking and roaring loudly near the Mapogo's territory. In a buffalo hunt, Kinky Tail and Mr. T were able to isolate the leader of Majingilane males who was on lookout and began chasing him. Soon they caught the intruder and Mr. T bit down on the male's neck, Kinky Tail ripped apart the male's groin area inflicting tears and bleeding. The Majingilane male tried to fight back. Eventually Kinky Tail and Mr. T managed to break the 5th Majingilane lion's spine and he was left immobilized and left to die a few hours later.

1.3. Kinky Tail's Death

Later that same night, a filming crew witnessed the four remaining younger Majingilane lions on the move. Two of them were exposed to Kinky Tail, who immediately charged on them all by himself. They ran with KT on their tail, and the remaining two Majingilane lions came up behind KT. Without the experience of being afraid of anything, the now-aging Kinky Tail attacked all four of them by himself. Eventually on a dirt road, under a cloud of dust, the 4 Majingilanes had pinned down Kinky Tail. The four males immediately started to bite and rip apart Kinky Tail. One lion was biting at his neck, another at his back; the third bit off Kinky Tail's testicles and genitalia. The Majingilanes managed to successfully snap Kinky Tail's spine, thus immobilizing him and leaving him with zero chance of survival. Mr. T eventually arrived and attempted to rescue and fight off the Majingilanes, but was outnumbered and outmaneuvered and forced to flee. Two Majingilanes attempted to track Mr. T, but were unsuccessful and returned to kill Kinky Tail. The four lions had started eating most of Kinky Tail's hind legs and his entire tail. He was seen taking his last breath while being eaten alive. During the altercation, Mr. T attempted again to save his brother. However, still injured from the previous encounter, his attempt was to no avail, and he again fled. Majingilane lions took over the territory and the pride of the two defeated lions and likely killed all their cubs.

1.4. Reunion of Mr. T with 4 Mapogo Lions

After Kinky Tail's death, Mr. T was driven off his territory and headed back west to rejoin his former coalition with Makulu, Rasta, Pretty Boy and Dreadlocks. Mr. T managed to rejoin and peacefully coexist with his fellow brothers in their territory. However, soon after Mr. T was observed seeking out, killing and eating his brothers' cubs. His brothers did nothing to stop this. Mr. T had been taking over the pride of his brothers, and the cubs were standing in his way. This was also done in an attempt to mate with the females and spread his own lineage. Mr. T had taken over as the leader of the Mapogo coalition.

During the next two years, Rasta (also called Leonides) was probably killed by poachers and Dreadlocks was shot by local people when he left the reserve. The Mapogo coalition was reduced to three members; Makhulu (14 years), Pretty Boy, and Mr. T. (12 years).

1.5. Mr. T's Death

On March 16, 2012, another coalition of four male lions called the Selatis entered Mapogo territory from the south. The four Selatis were able to single out one of the Mapogos who turned out to be Mr. T. By the time wildlife officials and film crew arrived, Mr. T had already been attacked and had several bite wounds on his back and front shoulder. One of the bites near the back was a deep bite. Mr. T was paralyzed from the hip down from the attack and made him vulnerable from all four lions coming in for the attack. The tactic used by the Selatis was to distract Mr. T from one side, and another lion would bite and maul Mr. T from behind on the spine and genitalia. The Selatis would then stop and move away temporarily from attacking, they would then get back up and proceed with attacking Mr. T, this process was repeated several times. Eventually, the Selatis left the severely injured and paralyzed Mr. T, who died that evening.

Following Mr. T's death, the last remaining Mapogos, Makulu and Pretty Boy, fought a coalition of two Kruger males and were driven off their territory. They were sighted in 2012 side by side, entering the Kruger National Park through the gate attributed to Paul Kruger. The remaining two were once again seen feeding on a buffalo in October–November 2012. In January 2013, Makulu was seen for the last time alone at Mala Mala, neighboring his old haunt, the Sabi Sand Reserve. At this point, he was almost 15 years old and largely exceeded the average male lion life expectancy.[6]

2. In Film

Daniel Huertas directed the documentary Brothers in Blood: The Lions of Sabi Sand, which was released in 2015 in the UK. The documentary summarized the 16-year span of the rise and eventual fall of the Mapogo coalition.[4] The documentary aired as an 8-episode series in the United States on Animal Planet.


  1. "The Notorious Mapogo Lions Of The Sabi Sands" (in en-US). 2019-05-01. 
  2. "The legend of the Mapogo lions" (in en-US). 2012-07-25. 
  3. Peter (2008-05-17). "The Mapogo story." (in en-US). 
  4. Brothers in Blood: The Lions of Sabi Sand,, retrieved 2019-04-26 
  5. Your Animal Planet (2018-06-06), Lions of Sabi Sands - Episode 3 | The Six Gangsters,, retrieved 2019-04-19 
  6. "Legend Lives On: Mapogo Lions over the Last Year" (in en-US). 
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Update Date: 09 Oct 2022
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