The most famous lion in the world has died in one of Africa’s most important conservation reserves.
Scarface the lion — named for a scar over his right eye — was 14 years old and passed away of natural causes in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve on 11 June.
The Mara Predator Conservation Programme said on Facebook: “At 1pm local time, Scarface took his last breath. He died in peace without any disturbance from vehicle and hyenas. We were the only vehicle on the scene and by his side, hoping to give him any kind of comfort
They added: “The Mara has lost yet another one of its great iconic males. May his legend forever live on”.
Throughout his life the lion was sought after by tourists for his unique appearance, as well as his charismatic personality which led him to reign over many prides of lions throughout his life.
The famous feline featured prominently on a number of wildlife documentaries including the BBC’s Big Cats Diary and National Geographic programming. He was beloved around the world, and also had his own Facebook page.
Award-winning wildlife and conservation photographer George Logan, who frequently photographed the lion, said on Instagram: “Farewell Scarface. The most charismatic and iconic of lion kings passed away last Friday.
He mentioned that for the past week, he had been receiving messages and photos from Kenya, showing that “Scar” had been struggling and was nearing the end of his life. He added that the lion had made a 25km trek across the reserve in his final days, to return to the area where he was born.
“It’s quite rare for a wild lion to die peacefully and of natural causes, but thankfully and fittingly, this is what has happened for Scar.
“We feared the worst when we saw him in close proximity to the Salas males, a trio of the most ferocious males (lions) in the Mara, but they respectfully let him be, even when he defiantly snarled at them.
Reflecting on his time photographing Scarface, Mr Logan said: “Each time I visited the Mara, an audience with Scar was always the trip highlight. This lion was a truly unique warrior survivor… and not just because of his trademark eye injury or his outrageous Rockstar mane.
“He had a huge personality and presence and you got the feeling that he really knew it too. A quite remarkable lion and definitely one of a kind.”
It is estimated that there are currently around 20,000 lions living in the wild, down from 100,000 in the 1960s. Roughly 850 to 900 of these lions live in the Maasai Mara reserve and surrounding conservancy areas.
The coronavirus pandemic has weakened global conservation efforts, with fewer tourism and donation dollars supporting wildlife reserve programmes like the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.