Our animal friends are interesting, but none is as regal as lion; in fact, finding a natural species as majestic as a lion is nearly difficult. He is known as the “King of the Jungle” for a reason, and when the word “nature” is mentioned, lions are the first to spring to mind; these majestic creatures define the wild and have served as a source of inspiration for many photographers.
Leighton Lum, a 33-year-old wildlife photographer, just recorded the world’s oldest lion with his camera, and the results are breathtaking. This Hawaii photographer flew all the way to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For the past seven years, the award-winning reserve has been named Africa’s Leading National Park. It features an estimated 900 lions and many other particular notable species, and is famous for the huge wildebeest migration from Tanzania to Kenya.
None of the other cats in the Maasai Mara, even the lethal five-member cheetah coalition that roams the reserve, can equal the lions’ might. Morani, Sikio, and Hunter, Scarface’s three brothers, form the “Four Musketeers” coalition.
All the animals were terrified by their tenacity, bravery, and savagery; unfortunately, Morani is the only ‘Musketeer’ left living; Hunter pass.ed away in 2019. Morani, a 14-year-old lion, just became the world’s oldest lion following the death of his sibling, the infamous Scarface.
The images captured by wildlife photographer Leighton Lum grabbed the curiosity of everyone who saw them, and we hope they do the same for you.
Anthony Tira is a wildlife photographer who knows the names of many of the creatures in the reserve. Morani is the lone surviving ‘king’ of the four brothers fathered by the Notch male lions, according to her. For the last decade, Morani and his three brothers have ruled these grounds.
“Morani was part of a coalition of four men, and he’s the only one left,” the photographer explained. He’s a lone man that was forced out of the pride by younger, stronger men, which is a common occurrence with lions because the strongest males govern the pride.”
Daniel Karino, a tour driver and guide in the Mara for the past 12 years, says it’s a common occurrence in lion culture for younger, stronger males to force older males out of the pride. That explains why Morani prefers to be alone.
Scarface was the most admired and “sought after” by tourists among the 900 lions reported to reside in the Maasai Mara.
Scarface was called after the legendary character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 American crime film of the same name. He had a large scar under one eye and had a dark scary face. He got his name from the scars on his face, which are undeniable evidence of his hard existence.
Scarface began to lose weight and walk with a limp as he grew older, an indication that old age was catching up with him.
“You can tell this kid has gone through a lot just by glancing at his face,” Leighton remarked. He moved from being a young pride’s stud leader, a king, to a retired elderly guy still fighting for existence in the Mara.”
Morani, despite his age, appears to be in better shape than ever.
Female lions have a gestation period of 102-112 days and a litter size of two to five pups. Lions mature physically at the age of two and mate all year. Adult male lions are often lazy and sleep up to 20 hours a day, leaving the lionesses to hunt.
Morani sleeps and rests the most of his time. “By nature, they [the lions] are lazy and may sleep for 20 hours a day,” Leighton explained. “We spotted him in the morning, then went back at the very end of the day only to find him no more than 15ft from where we left him. Even when he does get up and sit down, it is a rather slow process.”
Morani’s story is even more impressive and fascinating when you consider that he stood out among hundreds of lions in the Mara, earning the title of “Lion King.”