Kenyan lion believed to be one of the world’s oldest speared to death

Posted on 13 May 2023 By Lisa Abdellah

Loonkiito, a 19-year-old wild male lion, was preying on livestock in Olkelunyiet village when he was killed by Maasai morans (warriors) last Wednesday.  

Photograph: Philip J. Biggs

The village borders Amboseli National Park, in southern Kenya, where there are over 100 lions.  

The Maasai-operated Lion Guardians group, which conserves the lion population in Amboseli, told the BBC he was ‘the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa’. African lions typically have a lifespan of up to 18 years in the wild, according to the conservation group Cats for Africa. 

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson Paul Jinaro noted that Loonkiito, who had once reigned over a pride of females and cubs, was now too old and frail to hunt prey. In desperation, he had wandered into the village from the park in search of food.   

The Lions Guardians said that as wild prey recovers after the end of the drought, they have become more challenging to hunt. The dry spell has also increased human-wildlife conflict.   

MH Worldwide shared this video:

The group posted on Facebook, ‘It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Loonkiito (2004-2023)’, adding that it was a ‘tough situation for both sides, the people and the lion’ and eulogising him as ‘a symbol of resilience and coexistence’.  

There are just 23 000 lions left in the wild as their population has decreased by 90% over the last decade, according to African Impact.   

The big cats are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. 

Dr Paula Kahumbu, a wildlife conservationist and chief executive officer of WildlifeDirect, told the BBC, ‘This is the breaking point for human-wildlife conflict, and we need to do more as a country to preserve lions, which are facing extinction.’ 

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