Scarface: Oldest lion in the Mara

Scarface is a celebrity, one of the most sought after sightings in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. George Sayagie | Nation Media Group

By Daily Nation

His name is Scarface, owing to a scar in one of his eye, and he is the most sought-after lion in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Out of the estimated 850 to 900 lions in the reserve, the sight of Scarface completes a tourist’s expedition, as he is the face of survival and resilience.

The lifespan of a lion in the wild ranges between 10 and 14 years but, even with several injuries over the years, Scarface is 17 and going strong.

Apart from marvelling at wildebeest migration, many nature and wildlife enthusiasts have recently been treated to the five-cheetah coalition on the prowl in the reserve, and gradually, Scarface is gaining popularity.

He is referred to as a legend and is the most famous big cat, holding a territory of over 400 square kilometres.

Among wildlife enthusiasts, who call male lions ‘boys’ (tour guides and drivers call them ‘vichwa’), Scarface is a celebrity, and the king of his domain. Wildlife photographer Antony Tira, who can identify almost all animals in the reserve, says Scarface was fathered by the Notch male lions and forms part of the ‘musketeers’ coalition with his three brothers— Morani, Sikio and Hunter.

Marsh pride

The Four Musketeers are famous for their prowess and savagery but as they grow older, many wildlife enthusiasts are getting more and more concerned.

Lions reach sexual maturity at 2 years and mate throughout the year. Their gestation period is 102-112 days, which usually results in between two and five cubs.

“In 2012 when they were only four years old, Scarface and his brother took over the Marsh pride. You might have heard of the Marsh pride as they were featured on the Big Cats Diary documentary on BBC,” says Tira, co-owner of Matira bush camp with Monika Braun.

“For the last four years now, Scarface has been seen limping. There are no visible scars or injuries, but I think he is just getting old and his old injuries are catching up with him,” he says. The Marsh pride also made headlines in 2015 when lions died after being poisoned.

There are many speculations concerning how Scarface got his famous scar, but according to tour guide Nixon Kiriama, he suffered an injury in 2011 while fighting. Other speculators say it was from a spear.

Speaking to the Nation on Sunday, Kiriama said the wound often reopens whenever the lion scratches it but the vets always stitch it back up.

Paradise pride

Kiriama says that, in 2016, the four musketeers took over the Paradise pride.

The pride consists of nine females with cubs and a few sub-adult males.

With his old age, Scarface and brothers now dominate the Malaika and Ashnil camp territories along the Mara River and despite sleeping for long hours during the day, he is often seen with his brother Sikio and Morani.

Their other brother Hunter is said to have died two years ago.

When we found him near Ashnil camp on Sunday, he was curled up like a domestic cat in the grass, his thick mane sparkling in the sun.

His brother Morani was some two kilometres away near the Mara River wildebeest crossing point, sleeping too.

He narrowly escaped death after being speared by a Maasai herder protecting his cattle. But with the help of conservancy vets, he was soon back on the hunt.

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