Scarface the lion
It was he, Scarface the lion (Scar), curled up like a housecat in the grass, his thick dew-covered mane sparkling in the sun. His brothers, Hunter, Sikio, and Morani were nearby; they too were sleeping. The Four Musketeers, known for their prowess and savagery, instead looked precious where they lay.
Though all are well known, Scar is the celebrity. To see the scarred lion in real life is considered a “thing”. In Kenya’s Masai Mara, when travelers compare notes there’s one defining factor, those who’ve seen Scar and those who have not. Photographers from around the world quake with delight at the sight of him.
His virility is legendary and coupled with his rugged good looks—a black widow’s peak and a mane that sweeps back from his forehead like an evil Disney character—he embodies every bit the superstar.
How did Scar get his scar?
He earned his moniker in 2012, when he lost his right eyelid while making a territory grab with his three brothers Hunter, Sikio, and Morani. (Here’s a photo of him at that time.) They won the paws of the fair Marsh Pride females, defeating the lesser males they killed or sent packing.
Though he’s not without his close calls. He narrowly escaped death after being speared by a Maasai warrior protecting his cattle. But with the help of conservancy vets, he was soon back on the hunt.
The Sleeping King
I’m alone in the jeep with my guide Sammy. Earlier, we’d heard from a couple of rangers that there were big cats ahead. Putting the vehicle in gear, we sped along the dusty dirt road to the spot where the four lions lay, not knowing if the male we sought was among them. I looked at Sammy, his binoculars digging into his forehead, as his concentration gave way to a toothy grin. “Scar!” he whispered. I was overjoyed.
Watching him sleep, I’m trying to imagine him in battle. Claws extended, his face twisting into a snarl as a low guttural rumble explodes into a deafening roar. But I can’t, he looks too sweet, too vulnerable, like an oversized pet left cuddled in the backyard.
For a moment he raises his head. Is that a baboon I hear, screeching to its troop that the lions are near? He sniffs the air then surveys the landscape. Indifferent to the waking plains, he uses his large paws as a pillow and falls back to sleep, combat far from his mind.
I will see Scar a few times after this first encounter, walking alone through the high grass or sleeping yet again. I never see the stuff his legend is made of. But at night I hear it, I hear the warrior, his husky bellow piercing the black with a force that shakes the trees.
I hear the king, the legend, claiming his domain.
Other stories from the Masai Mara