One of the world’s oldest male lions was killed by herders in Kenya. The lion, named Loonkiito, was 19 years old and was killed in Olkelunyiet village on Wednesday night while hunting for livestock.
The authorities in Kenya said that the lion was speared by herders. The village where Loonkiito was killed is next to Amboseli National Park, located in southern Kenya.
Lion Guardians, a conservation group, stated that Loonkiito was “the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa.”
Normally, lions in the wild live up to about 13 years old. The World Wildlife Federation reports that almost all lions live in Africa, with a small population around Gir Forest National Park in western India.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson Paul Jinaro explained that the lion was old and weak and wandered into the village from the park to look for food. Mr. Jinaro couldn’t confirm if he was the oldest lion in the country but acknowledged he was “very old.”
Loonkiito, believed to be the oldest lion in the world, has been killed by herders in Kenya. He was 19 pic.twitter.com/b3HoIJbbLq
— BNO News (@BNONews) May 12, 2023
Increased human-lions conflict in Kenya
The Lion Guardians group, operated by the Maasai people, aims to preserve the lion population in Amboseli National Park. They stated that the end of a drought typically leads to an increase in conflicts between humans and lions.
This occurs as wild prey recovers and becomes more difficult to hunt, forcing lions to attack livestock out of desperation.
The group mourned the loss of Loonkiito and recognized the “tough situation” faced by both the people and the lion. They also highlighted Loonkiito’s significance as “a symbol of resilience and coexistence.”
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Loonkito (2004 – 2023), the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa,” the Lion Guardians stated in a post on Facebook.
Wildlife conservationist and CEO of WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu, expressed her pain over the lion’s death and urged for measures to protect wildlife in Kenya.
Ms. Kahumbu emphasized the urgency to address the conflict between humans and wildlife in the country, specifically the need to preserve the lion population that is facing extinction. Lions in the wild typically live up to 13 years, but they can live much longer in captivity.
Early incidents of human-lions conflict in Kenya
The Kenya Wildlife Service official Jinaro said that people need to be educated on how to notify the authorities if wild animals wander into their communities so that they can be safely returned to their natural habitats in parks.
This statement came after a lion caused a commotion in July 2021 by leaving its habitat in Nairobi National Park and entering a crowded neighborhood during the morning rush hour.
The park is located only seven kilometers from the bustling heart of Kenya’s capital, and incidents of animals escaping and wandering into the city of more than four million people are not uncommon.
However, such incidents have resulted in tragic consequences. In December 2019, a lion killed a man just outside the park, while in March 2016, another lion was shot dead after attacking and injuring a nearby resident.