According to wildlife officials, a Kenyan lion considered to be the world’s oldest died after being speared by herders.
Loonkito, 19, was savagely speared to death on Wednesday night by Maasai morans (warriors) after being spotted preying on animals in Olkelunyiet hamlet.
Wildlife conservationists revered this King of the Jungle for years because most lions do not live in the wild for long.
Loonkito visited a village on the fringes of Amboseli National Park, which is recognized for being the best area in Africa to get up close and personal with free-roaming elephants and other wildlife species.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) dubbed the enormous predator the ‘famous big cat warrior’ after he guarded his territory for almost a decade.
‘It was an old lion that had difficulty… obtaining prey on its own and livestock is easy prey,’ said KWS spokesperson Paul Jinaro.
‘A typical lion would seek out creatures within the park.’
According to the conservation organization Cats for Africa, African lions can live up to 18 years in the wild.
Amboseli has about 100 lions, and the big cats are listed as ‘threatened’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
According to African Impact, there are just 23,000 lions left in the wild, with their number having fallen by 90% in the last decade.
According to the World Wildlife Federation, almost all lions live in Africa, with a small population in India.
Loonkito was not officially confirmed as the world’s oldest lion, but he was a very elderly lion who outlived the typical survival age.
The conservation organization Lion Guardians praised Loonkito as a “symbol of resilience and coexistence.”
‘It is with sorrowful hearts that we convey the news of Loonkito’s (2004-2023) passing, the oldest male lion in our environment and possibly in Africa,’ the non-profit wrote on Facebook.
Reports of wildlife crossing into human environments in Kenya have grown in recent years, as towns develop into old migration and hunting regions, putting the animals under increasing pressure.
“People need to be educated on how to alert us so that we can return animals to the parks,” said KWS officer Jinaro.
A lion created alarm in July 2021 after wandering from its refuge in Nairobi National Park into a busy neighborhood during morning rush hour.
The park is only seven kilometers (four miles) from the center of Kenya’s capital, and it is not uncommon for animals to escape the grassy plains and stroll into the hectic metropolis of more than four million people.
A lion mauled a man to death just outside the park in December 2019, while another animal was shot dead in March 2016 after assaulting and injuring a local neighbor.
Just a month earlier, in February 2016, two lions spent a day prowling through Kibera, a densely packed city slum, before returning to the park, and other lions were observed in town days after.
According to the country’s first-ever national wildlife census, which was done in 2021, there are around 2,500 lions in Kenya.