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One of the world’s oldest wild lions, Loonkiito, killed by herders in Kenya

FILE - Loonkiito the 19-year-old lion was killed by herders in southern Kenya on May 10, 2023. Facebook / Lion Guardians

A lion believed to be one of the world’s oldest was killed after he was speared by herders in Kenya on Wednesday, wildlife officials announced. Loonkiito the lion was 19.

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Loonkiito was killed after he entered a livestock pen in Olkelunyiet village near the border of Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya. The conservation organization Lion Guardians said Loonkiito was the oldest lion in the ecosystem — and perhaps the oldest wild lion in all of Africa.

Most lions live only between 10 and 14 years, though they can live much longer in captivity.

Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Jinaro told the news agency AFP Loonkiito was killed by Maasai morans (warriors) while he searched their land for food.

“It was an old lion that had issues … getting prey on its own … and livestock is easy prey,” Jinaro told AFP.

He said a healthier, spryer lion would hunt within the wildlife park.

Lion Guardians, which is run by young, traditional Maasai and other pastoralist warriors, said the recent end of a drought in the area has caused “an uptick in human-lion conflict.” The organization claimed wildlife like Loonkiito are weaker as a result of the drought and are hunting livestock out of “desperation.”

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“Since livestock owners lost so many of their animals to the drought, they are particularly vigilant in watching over their remaining animals,” Lion Guardians wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, Loonkito was caught up in this dynamic as he was starving and jumped into a corral in the middle of the night — this was a tough situation for both sides, the people and the lion.”

The group called Loonkito a “symbol of resilience and coexistence.”

“We at Lion Guardians feel privileged to have borne witness to his life and his legacy,” the organization eulogized.

Thanks to the efforts of conservation groups and local communities in Kenya, the lion population in the country increased by 25 per cent as of 2021, bringing the official estimate to nearly 2,500 lions, according to the Kenyan government.


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