Morani, the new King of the Jungle in the Mara

The Maasai Mara National Reserve has won Africa’s Leading National Park award more than seven times in a row.

But there are many other attractions and individual celebrated animals, like the five-member cheetah coalition on the prowl in the reserve, collectively hunting antelopes and wildebeests.

But of all the cats in the Maasai Mara, the lion is the only one that arouses much awe and admiration.

For over a decade, a lion named Scarface had been referred to as the legend of the reserve and was the most famous and most sought-after cat by tourists in his territory of over 400 square kilometres.

After Scarface died, wildlife lovers and researchers shifted their adoration to his brother Morani (a Maasai word for a warrior), who, at age 14, is said to be the oldest in the reserve and the king of his domain.

Tour guides and drivers say Morani inherited the title after Scarface died earlier this year.

Deep scar

Scarface, so named because of his dark face with a deep scar under one eye, took the nickname from the famous character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 American crime movie of the same name. He is said to have succumbed to old age.

Of the 900 lions estimated to live the Maasai Mara, Scarface was the most respected and “sought after” by tourists.

He and his three brothers Morani, Sikio and Hunter represented the coalition of the “Four Musketeers”, feared by all animals for their tenacity, bravado and ferocity. Morani is the only one still alive.

Hunter died in 2019. Then Scarface slowly began losing weight, walking with a limp, a sign that old age was catching up with the king.

Daniel Karino, a seasoned tour driver and guide in the Mara for 12 years, says Morani lives in solitude after being pushed out of the pride by younger, stronger males, a natural phenomenon in lion society.

In general, adult male lions are lazy by nature and sleep up to 20 hours a day.

Pictures captured by professional wildlife photographer Leighton Lum and shared on the website of the Daily Mail to the thrill of many readers show that Morani still has energy but lives alone.

Mr Leighton, of Hawaii in the US, said: “Just by looking at his face, you can tell this guy has been through a lot”.

Male lions

Another wildlife photographer, Antony Tira, who can identify many animals in the reserve by their names, says Morani and his three brothers were fathered by the Notch male lions.

Lions reach sexual maturity at two years and mate throughout the year. Female lions’ gestation period is 102-112 days, and they give birth to 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 Mr Tira, a co-owner of the Matira bush camp with Monika Braun.

Maasai Mara Chief Warden James Ole Sindiyio said when lions become old they are kept in a database by international monitors under the Mara predators projects so their health can be tracked and monitored.

Mr Sindoyio said Morani was originally from the Marsh pride before he left because of old age. There are several other prides in the Maasai Mara, including the Ridge pride, who reside in the Double Cross area in the Talek region, the River pride, and the Cheli & Peacock pride.

“According to the Mara predators project, he is now the oldest in the reserve and still healthy and feasting on kills by other predators,” Mr Sindoyio said.

Kenya Wildlife Service sources said they know the lions through news shared by conservationists in the Mara but because they don’t manage the reserve they were not in a position to comment about Morani.

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