The reign of the Duba Boys came to an end on July 28, 2008 when the second of the dynamic pair passed away, he was proceeded by his partner on December 28, 2007. The lions of Duba Plains are famed for their daytime hunts of buffalo, a daunting and dangerous prey species, and fittingly both Duba Boys met their ultimate end following fatal injuries inflicted by buffalo horns.
The Duba Boys built an empire within the vast Duba Plains territory by capitalizing on the presence of the large buffalo herd. Gaining strength from this tremendous food resource the Duba Boys led exceptional lives that were shockingly successful. Lion males tend to form coalition groups, often of brothers, to gain control of a pride of females. The average coalition holds a pride for just over two years, enough time to produce one cycle of cubs before being overthrown by younger, more fit lions. Large coalitions of 4 to 6 males and rarely smaller groups may hold a pride for four years. The Duba Boys ruled prides for an astounding eleven years (approximately)! At one point the Duba Boys actually controlled and were mating with three different prides, Pantry, Tsaro, and Skimmer. Over the last few years the Duba Boys have remained lords of the Tsaro pride. Typically male lions do not live much past ten, but the Duba Boys lived to an estimated elderly age of 17.
When I first saw these amazing lions it was 2003 and they were already considered to be defying the odds and on borrowed time. There were three sets of male coalitions ready to challenge. The Skimmer Males was a group of four who were sons of the Duba Boys, two of whom were just entering their prime as strong five years olds with another two growing large at three and a half years of age. The Tsaro males were a coalition of five brothers, also sons of the Duba Boys, who were four years of age and quickly approaching maturity. Lastly there was a coalition of two who had showed up on the scene and these were absolutely prime specimens, in fact they had attacked one of the Duba Boys just prior to my visit and left him with some bad wounds on his thigh.
This set the scene for one of the most spectacular sequences that I have ever witnessed. We set out on our morning game drive and eventually came to hear roaring in the far distance. Our guide Katembo did a remarkable job of honing in on the sound and we quickly closed the gap to find the agitated Duba Boys, veins popping and muscles bulging to summon up earth trembling roars. We then spotted the cause for this display of shock and awe, one member of the new intruding coalition was on the other side of a channel of water. The Duba Boys were huge, with imposing physiques that far exceeded the average lion but this intruder appeared even bigger. The Duba Boy who had recently been injured battling the intruders was visibly reluctant for confrontation as they walked toward the channel but then the first Duba Boy exploded into a sprint toward the water, the other Duba Boy immediately dismissed his reluctance as the coalition bond was too strong between these two and he burst into a sprint as well. Without breaking stride they launched themselves jumping the entire channel of 15 to 20 feet in width. Out numbered and no doubt impressed by the determination of the Duba Boys, the would-be challenger took off running. Satisfied the Duba Boys swam back across the channel and celebrated with a head rubbing ceremony cementing their special bond with one another.
My time with these lions was mesmerizing, awe-inspiring, and an important influence leading to my research toward the conservation of lions. As their photos are prominently displayed in my house and office I find my mind transported back to Duba Plains daily and it saddens me to think they are no longer there but I will always remember the great privilege I had to see these magnificent lions in action, true legends who astonished all with their tremendous success.