The oldest lion in the Kenyan Mara, 14-year-old Scarface, known for a scar across his eye and loved and discussed passionately by wildlife enthusiasts and big cat nerds from all over the world, breathed his last on June 11. The lion, accorded an unofficial but undisputed legendary status by experts and enthusiasts alike, held a territory of 400 sq km.
Scarface is reported by the World Heritage Species to have died of natural causes. "We are heartbroken to announce that the legendary 'Scarface' passed away today of natural causes in his beloved Mara home," a social media statement by the group reads. According to images shared online and news reports, the lion had grown underweight and sickly in the period leading up to his death.
Lions generally live for 10-14 years, and despite suffering quite a few injuries that also led to him developing a few limps, Scarface was known as a strong lion. His endurance and distinct, 'scarred' visage lent a charisma and sense of intrigue to his cult&mdashso much so that it led to widespread documentation and coverage of his life and times. The wound on his eye opened several times but timely vet intervention prevented infection. Scarface was also struck by a Maasai warrior's spear, in an act of self-defence by the latter, who was protecting his cattle.
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Along with his brothers Hunter, Morani and Sikio, he formed a formidable quartet that fascinated travellers and those who saw their adventures on the screen, alike. In fact, it was during one of these raids along with his siblings that he lost his right eyelid&mdashand got the eponymous scar as a four-year-old in 2012. The four maned crusaders went for a territory conquest, taking over the Marsh Pride that was featured on the BBC documentary Big Cats Diary. Another pride that the Musketeer coalition took over was Paradise, in the year 2016.
Scarface even had a dedicated Facebook page to himself. For wildlife photographers who believe in bucket lists, having seen Scarface alone can put quite a few precious sightings in the shade. With his unruly, windswept mane that had a big patch of black hair suggesting greater virility and an abiding status among his peers, a distinctly deafening roar, and an unmistakable swagger that does remind one of the other Scarface, played by a rambunctious Al Pacino in the Brian de Palma film.
The wildlife world will surely miss the legendary lion's presence and the massive impact he has had on Kenya turning into a wildlife and safari lover's holy grail. Long live the king.