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Long Live the King

At 1pm local time on 11 June, Scarface took his last breath. He died of natural causes in peace without any disturbance from vehicles or hyenas. The Mara has lost a king, but may his legend live on forever
Above: Scarface looks out over the long grass.

Born in 2008, Scarface, named so for the unmistakable scar over his right eye, commanded a global following of passionate big cat lovers and was the most highly regarded and sought-after lion in the Maasai Mara. The face of survival, resilience and courage, Scarface (or 'Scar') held a vast territory of over 400 square kilometres.

With his distinctive scar and impressive mane, Scarface quickly grew a large following of big cat lovers Photograph by Mohammad Mirza

The lifespan of a lion in the wild ranges between 10 and 14 years but even after overcoming several injuries over the years, Scarface lived to be the oldest lion in the Reserve at 13. He formed part of the 'four musketeers' coalition in the Marsh Pride with his three brothers: Morani, Sikio and Hunter. In 2012, when they were just four years old, Scarface and his brothers took over the Marsh pride and starred in the BBC’s documentary, Big Cat Diary.

Scarface through the years Photographs by Christine Crosby, Gabriela Saeble, Gianmarco Minniti, Joni Munsterteiger and Pascal Munezero

Many have speculated over how Scarface got his famous scar, with the most widely accepted explanation being that he suffered an injury in 2011 in a fight. His trademark scar would reopen from time to time from him scratching it, but the Mara wildlife vets would quickly step in to stitch it back up. Once, he narrowly escaped death after being speared by a Maasai herder who was protecting his cattle. But again, thanks to the conservancy vets, he was soon back on the hunt.

His impressive yet unruly mane was one of his most endearing features Photograph by Joni Munsterteiger

As one fan wrote soon after his death, “His unruly, windswept mane that had a big patch of black hair suggesting greater virility and an abiding status among his peers, a distinctly deafening roar, and an unmistakable swagger that does remind one of the other Scarface, played by a rambunctious Al Pacino in the Brian de Palma film”.

The steel-cut portrait of Scarface that now welcomes guests to our Boma

Beautiful words honouring a great king. We will miss his mythical presence in the Mara but he will live on in our hearts forever. Recently, the Angama family honoured Scarface with a handsome steel-cut portrait that greets our guests at the entrance to our sunset boma. Designed by talented sculptor Simon Max Bannister, he will always be close.

Kwaheri Mzee Scarface.

A face that will live on in photographs, artwork and memories the world over Photograph by Huzeifa Zakir; sculpture by Simon Max Bannister

Note from the Editor:

A tree was planted in the Garden of Remembrance for anyone wishing to pay their respects to Scarface. This tribute was organized by guide Ericson Tempo Lemaalo, who watched Scarface for 11 years become the legend he was.

Several of the photographs featured here are entries from The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year competition. Thank you to the photographers for allowing us to celebrate Scarface one last time.

Filed under: The Mara

Tagged with:

Lions of the Mara , The Greatest Maasai Mara , Wildlife Photography

About: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

Browse all articles by Nicky Fitzgerald Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (4 comments)

Comments (4):

Richard Wentzel

30 June 2021

Thanks for this news. We saw him in September 2016 when he was suffering from a hip injury from a disagreement with a buffalo. His brothers were looking after him. Very surprised he survived so long. He really was the King of Kings of the Mara.

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    2 July 2021

    He certainly lived a full and adventurous life. The King of Kings is a great way to put it; he was a true legend.

Francis Bagbey

29 June 2021

Saw Scarface in August 2017. Glad to know I saw one of the Greats.

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    2 July 2021

    You saw him while he was still in his prime, which is always better. But having said that, he was one of the greats until the very end.

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