The 'oldest lion in the world' has died aged 19 after being speared by herders

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By James Kay

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A lion believed to be the oldest in the world has sadly died after it was speared to death by herders after it attacked their livestock.

The 19-year-old lion, Loonkito, lived in Amboseli National Park relatively peacefully for most of his life, but on Wednesday night, he ventured into the nearby Olkelunyiet village.

As reported by the Metro, the group of Maasai warriors deemed Loonkito to have strayed too close to their livestock, so they were left with no choice by the kill the animal.

Defending their cattle in the Amboseli National Park, the warriors attempted to ward off the lion with spears but he soon succumbed to an injury that the spears dealt to his head.

The average lifespan of a lion living in the wild is said to be between 15 and 19, so Loonkito was often the subject of great interest due to his long life.

His death is currently being mourned by conservationists, with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) referring to him as the "legendary big cat warrior," due to the amount of time he had defended his territory.

KWS spokesman, Paul Jinaro said: "It was an old lion that had issues... getting prey on its own and livestock is easy prey. A normal lion would go for wildlife inside the park."

According to the National, Loonkito ruled a pride of lions until 2o17 when he was severely wounded in a fight for territory, which saw his brother, Ambogga, killed.

His health deteriorated after this fight, and the lion was finding it harder to hunt and defend his pride - and old age soon began to take its toll.

Following the conflict with the herders, Loonkito's body was recovered by the KWS, and Daniel Sampu, who works for the service, said that this signified conflict between lions and humans within the area.

"This is purely a human-wildlife conflict. The local people have been living with wildlife for ages," he said. "The pastoralists are on high alert to protect the few animals left by the recent severe drought. Such incidents must be discouraged."

The death of the lion has been met with backlash from conservationist groups, as Lion Guardians shared a heartfelt eulogy to their Instagram page.

They penned: "It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Loonkiito (2004 - 2023), the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa. He died yesterday, on the 10th of May 2023 at 19 years old. He was a symbol of resilience and coexistence. We at Lion Guardians feel privileged to have borne witness to his life and his legacy."

As per the Metro, there are an estimated 23,000 lions left in the wild as the last decade has seen their numbers deplete by 90%.

Lions straying close to cities and villages is understood to be a reaction to the animal's habitats shrinking due to human expansion.

Loonkito dying at the age of 19 is a ripe old age for a lion in the wild, but Pittsburgh Zoo claims that they can live to between 25 and 30 years old in captivity.

Featured image credit: Saifuddin Ratlamwala/Pexels

The 'oldest lion in the world' has died aged 19 after being speared by herders

vt-author-image

By James Kay

Article saved!Article saved!

A lion believed to be the oldest in the world has sadly died after it was speared to death by herders after it attacked their livestock.

The 19-year-old lion, Loonkito, lived in Amboseli National Park relatively peacefully for most of his life, but on Wednesday night, he ventured into the nearby Olkelunyiet village.

As reported by the Metro, the group of Maasai warriors deemed Loonkito to have strayed too close to their livestock, so they were left with no choice by the kill the animal.

Defending their cattle in the Amboseli National Park, the warriors attempted to ward off the lion with spears but he soon succumbed to an injury that the spears dealt to his head.

The average lifespan of a lion living in the wild is said to be between 15 and 19, so Loonkito was often the subject of great interest due to his long life.

His death is currently being mourned by conservationists, with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) referring to him as the "legendary big cat warrior," due to the amount of time he had defended his territory.

KWS spokesman, Paul Jinaro said: "It was an old lion that had issues... getting prey on its own and livestock is easy prey. A normal lion would go for wildlife inside the park."

According to the National, Loonkito ruled a pride of lions until 2o17 when he was severely wounded in a fight for territory, which saw his brother, Ambogga, killed.

His health deteriorated after this fight, and the lion was finding it harder to hunt and defend his pride - and old age soon began to take its toll.

Following the conflict with the herders, Loonkito's body was recovered by the KWS, and Daniel Sampu, who works for the service, said that this signified conflict between lions and humans within the area.

"This is purely a human-wildlife conflict. The local people have been living with wildlife for ages," he said. "The pastoralists are on high alert to protect the few animals left by the recent severe drought. Such incidents must be discouraged."

The death of the lion has been met with backlash from conservationist groups, as Lion Guardians shared a heartfelt eulogy to their Instagram page.

They penned: "It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Loonkiito (2004 - 2023), the oldest male lion in our ecosystem and possibly in Africa. He died yesterday, on the 10th of May 2023 at 19 years old. He was a symbol of resilience and coexistence. We at Lion Guardians feel privileged to have borne witness to his life and his legacy."

As per the Metro, there are an estimated 23,000 lions left in the wild as the last decade has seen their numbers deplete by 90%.

Lions straying close to cities and villages is understood to be a reaction to the animal's habitats shrinking due to human expansion.

Loonkito dying at the age of 19 is a ripe old age for a lion in the wild, but Pittsburgh Zoo claims that they can live to between 25 and 30 years old in captivity.

Featured image credit: Saifuddin Ratlamwala/Pexels