Mohawk The Lion, The Beloved Kenyan Big Cat, Shot Dead By Wildlife Rangers

Pam Wright

Mohawk the lion, one of Kenya’s most famous and beloved big cats, was shot and killed Wednesday by ill-prepared wildlife rangers.

As reported by CNN, Kenyans are trying to figure out how one of its prized cats could be killed by the very ones trying to protect them.

Mohawk was reportedly shot and killed after the big cat escaped Nairobi National Park and threatened human life. The rangers that first arrived on the scene had no tranquilizers, only rifles. A second team that did have tranquilizers was on its way, but it was too late. The rangers on site felt compelled to put Mohawk down because of an immediate threat, said a spokesman for Kenya Wildlife Services.

Mohawk the Lion, who was named for the mohawk-shaped tuft of fur on his head, was shot several times after it injured a person in the Kajiado district, said Paul Udoto, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Nelly Palmeris, a senior park warden at Nairobi National Park, shared the sad news of Mohawk the lion’s death on Wednesday.

“We lost one of our best lions.”

Mohawk reportedly showed up in Isinya, a town about 20 miles from Nairobi. He was surrounded by hundreds of bystanders that taunted the 13-year-old lion by taking pictures and throwing rocks at him. The big cat defended himself by thrashing his paw at one of the men.

The man was reportedly hospitalized with deep lacerations and bruises.

Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Gathitu said when the man was injured, it became apparent that something had to be done.

“When it injured that person, it became imminent to us that it could lead to a worse situation and it had to be brought down.”

Contradictory to reports, images of the lion before being shot shows him walking alone along an unpopulated stretch of farmland. The ranger is seen taking aim and hitting Mohawk’s right leg.

Aisha Tande, a Nairobi resident, tweeted his outrage over the death of Mohawk the Lion.

It’s not uncommon for the big animals to escape the wildlife protected land, and this was the third such incident in the past two months.

One reason why animals are encountering humans more frequently is because the population immediately surrounding the park has grown more than tenfold since it was established in 1946. Lions roaming about now easily encounter suburbs, farms, and commercial buildings.

Mohawk escaped from Nairobi National Park on Monday after he was forced out in a territorial dispute with another lion. Obeying instincts, the lion moved on, walking south to establish a new territory, and escaped the park via an unfenced portion of the park.

Sadly, another lion was being hunted after escaping from a park in South Africa. A lion named Sylvester escaped from Karoo National Park, and wildlife officials there say he posed a threat. On Wednesday, they prepared to kill him.

“The decision taken earlier today to put him down was not taken lightly,” South African National Parks tweeted.

Reynold Thakhuli, a spokesman for South African National Parks, told the Agence France-Presse that they had to take the extreme measure of taking the big cat down to protect residents.

“He is clearly a troublesome lion and could be a danger to humans.”

It is unclear if Sylvester the lion was killed or whether he was still being hunted.

According to the Washington Post, the African lion is considered a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A study last year found that its population had sadly declined by 50 percent in the past 20 years.

Mohawk the lion’s death was eerily similar to Cecil the lion, who was killed in July, leading to outrage the world over.

[Image via Twitter/NationFMke]