Scarface, the world’s most renowned lion, died naturally at the age of 14 in Kenya. He was the oldest lion in the Maasai Mara national reserve and was recognized for the large scar on his right eye.
“At 1 pm local time [on Friday, June 11], Scarface took his last breath,” the Mara Predator Conservation Program announced his death in a statement. “He died in peace without any disturbance from vehicles and hyenas. We were the only vehicle on the scene and by his side, hoping to give him any kind of comfort.”
Shortly later, the World Heritage Species released a similar announcement, calling the big cat as ‘legendary’.
According to conservationists, the lion, whose species generally lives between 10 and 14 years, had appeared thin and ill in the months preceding his death.
In the Kenyan reserve, his death left a 400-square-mile area up for grabs. Scarface and his three brothers, Morani, Sikio, and Hunter, previously controlled a large territory in the Malaika and Ashnil camp domains. They headed a pride of nine females with cubs and a few young males, known as the ‘Four Musketeers.’
Scarface had his own page on social network and appeared in various films, like Big Cats Diary for the BBC.
The big lion was injured several times throughout his life, including being struck by a Maasai warrior’s spear while this individual was defending his cattle.
When Scarface was four years old, he suffered the scar across his eye that gave him the nickname ‘Scarface’ during a territory attack in 2012. When the wound opened, veterinarians several times had to treat it to avoid infection.
The lion was regarded by conservationists as a powerful and charismatic leader, which was aided by his damaged appearance.
Scarface was dubbed the “rockstar of the Mara” by Scottish wildlife photographer George Logan, who was a member of a movement to save the remaining lion population, which has decreased from 100,000 in the 1960s to 20,000.
“He had this exceptionally big mane, which apparently makes lions more attractive to females. He was quite unique and stayed at the top so long with this crazy appearance and big personality. I would say he was the most famous lion in the world,” Logan said about Scarface.
Most male lions were killed by competitors or became weak from fighting wounds and were attacked by hyenas after two or three years as the pride’s king. Scarface, however, was not.
Logan said that Scarface resisted logic even near the end by pulling himself more than 15 miles (25 klms) back to his initial habitat, close to his birthplace. “We feared the worst when we saw him in close proximity to the Salas males [lions], a trio of the most ferocious young males in the Mara, but they respectfully let him be, even when he defiantly snarled at them,” Logan added.