A 19-year-old male lion named Loonkito, believed to be one of the oldest lions in the wild, has died after being speared by Kenyan herders, according to wildlife officials. The iconic animal was killed after wandering into a livestock pen just outside of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park where he had lived for over a decade.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson, Paul Jinaro, explained that Loonkito was unable to hunt prey on his own due to his age, and as a result, relied on livestock as an easy source of food. He added that a normal lion would have gone for wildlife within the park.
African lions generally have a lifespan of up to 18 years in the wild, according to the conservation group, Cats for Africa. The KWS had described Loonkito as a “legendary big cat warrior” earlier in 2021.
The conservation group Lion Guardians paid tribute to Loonkito, describing him as “a symbol of resilience and coexistence.” According to the non-profit, Loonkito was the oldest male lion in the ecosystem and possibly in Africa.
Incidents of wildlife straying into human habitats in Kenya have increased in recent years due to the expansion of cities into ancient migration and hunting grounds. To address this problem, KWS official Jinaro calls for people to be sensitised on ways to alert rangers so that animals can be taken back to national parks.
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is situated seven kilometres from Nairobi National Park, where incidents of animals escaping into the city’s densely populated areas are not uncommon. The country is home to approximately 2,500 lions, according to the country’s first-ever national wildlife census conducted in 2021.