Africa

Scar: The Lion. The Legend.

Photographing Scarface the lion in the Masai Mara

What’s this lion all about?

I heard about Scarface (Scar) the lion long before my trip to the Masai Mara in 2014, but I never thought I’d see him in the fur.  He’s a bush celebrity, like the famed female leopard, Legadema, in Botswana, the subject of the National Geographic documentary Eye of the Leopard, or the unfortunate Cecil in Zimbabwe, who was killed in 2015. To see him in real life is a bit of a *thang*.

His virility, his widow’s peak and black mane sweeping back from his forehead like an evil Disney character, and his…um… scars (ladies always like a sexy scar) have made him a living legend. There are not many lions that look like Scar. He’s one of a kind.

Like the knights of old, Scar has fought many battles. In 2012, he lost his right upper eyelid while making a territory grab with his three lion brothers Hunter, Sikio and Morani. (Here’s a photo of him around that time.)

Photographing Scarface the lion in the Masai Mara

Scar looking all kitty-like

Together, they are affectionately called the Four Musketeers. They won the paws of the fair Marsh Pride females from the unfortunate males they either killed or sent packing.

A few years ago, thanks to the efforts of the Conservancy vets, he survived a Maasai spear to his side after he tried to kill a warrior’s cow. (Note to Scar: Don’t mess with the Maasai.) He’s the lion equivalent of the Energizer bunny: he takes a licking but keeps on ticking! And the crowds go wild… metaphorically of course.

In July of this past year, I saw friends posting images of Scar on Facebook while on safari in the Mara Triangle. Unexpectedly, he and two of his three siblings, Hunter and Sikio, crossed the Mara River and were wreaking havoc with the males there, taking over prides right and left.  I was so jealous; I wanted to see Scar too!

And then I forgot about it. Life and all.

Photographing Scarface the lion in the Masai Mara

Fast forward to my second day in the Triangle in September. I was alone in the jeep at sunrise with my guide/driver Sammy. He heard from the Conservancy rangers, with whom we stopped to chat, that three lions were less than a mile from camp. Sammy put the jeep in gear and we were on our way.

Moments later we found the trio snoozing out in the open, their thick, dew covered manes glistening in the sun. Sammy, his binoculars digging into his forehead, burst into a big toothy grin and said the magic word…. “Scar!”

Sleeping like a kitty cat in the grass, the celebrated lion lay only 100 feet in front of our vehicle, the sooty black scar above his right eye in clear view.

Photographing Scarface the lion in the Masai Mara

(To be frank, it wasn’t the first meeting I’d hoped for. If I were his publicist, I’d never let people see him curled up like a giant house cat in public. Too wussy. It detracts from his image. It’s like finding James Bond sucking his thumb.

Perhaps if he curled up on the bones of his enemies…. But I digress.

The boys were down for the count, and though they later got up to move a few hundred yards further up the road, they quickly sat down again to continue their nap.

We saw Scar and his handsome siblings quite a few times in the Masai Mara over the next seven days. They stayed near our camp and we could hear them roaring into the night.

Photographing Scarface the lion in the Masai Mara

All in all, our Scar sightings were on the mellow side. No raging battles for dominance. No chest thumping. He was either laying down or walking to a place where he could lie down. Or sleeping. You get my drift.

I never captured the quintessential shot I had in my mind: Leaping towards a foe, his face frozen in a cruel snarl….

But it was Scar, and it was all good by me!

Updated: The last two photos I  included are from another trip so that you could get a better look at him.


Other stories from the Masai Mara

The Drama, the Suspense, the Thrill of a Wildebeest Crossing

Miracle Sightings in the Masai Mara

On Safari in Kenya: Zebra vs Crocodile!

The Tale of the Lion in the Tree and The Evil White Jeep

The Dance of Dominance and Submission Between Lions

A Morning with Lions I’ll Never Forget


He's the Cecil of the Masai Mara. A celebrity lion, one of the most sought after sightings in Kenya, and the king of his domain.

 

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32 replies »

  1. Hello,
    Bit late,Very beautiful photos.
    Is Scarface still around mara?
    Will mara triangle be a good spot for Sikio and Scarface ?

    • My husband and I just came back from Kenya and the Mara (October 2017) and were extremely lucky in that we saw Scarface. He was sitting beside the road with a lioness. Our guide said that we were really lucky and he was right. It was amazing. Unfortunately he is getting very old and our guide didn’t feel there was much time left for him. The whole Kenya safari was the best trip ever! I would go back in a minute!

      • It’s wonderful that you got to see him. I worry that I won’t get back there to see him before he’s gone. That said, I had friends there for 8 weeks this passed summer and they said he was mating and defending himself so hopefully he’s got a little more time than expected left.

  2. Dumb question from a TOTAL stranger to these things. If Scar’s eye looks so bad (the raw tissue exposed an all), and with the lion population in such danger, is there ever any thought given to capturing and delivery health care, then releasing such an animal back to his pride?

    • For the most part, the rangers/vets let nature take its course. If his injury is caused by living life as a lion then they really don’t interfere. That being said, he was speared by a Maasai when he was going after some livestock and the vets did assist at that point. There are certainly exceptions to these rules, but on the average that’s what they try to adhere to. Even if they wanted to help with every injury, the costs would be astronomical if it took place on any regular basis. They need vehicles, vets, dart guns, the tranquilizers and medicines, etc. etc.

  3. Fantastic narrative.. We have been to the Mara twice and seen him both times.. Once luckily we saw him mating .. He is a legend. Masai Mara is best place on earth. X

  4. Stunning shots of this icon, who I’ve only heard of. Yet every time I’ve seen lions in South Africa their individual characteristics come through the uniqueness of each face. How I’d love to spend more time with them and recognize each individual. And at the end of the day, I could lay and listen to the lions roar all night except that wake up call comes SO early. Glad you got to see this dream come true.

    • I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I really appreciate the kind words. It’s always a bit of a struggle for me so to know that you enjoyed it in the end is fantastic. Thank you!

Would love to hear from you!