Abused By Humans For Hours, Celebrity Lion Mohawk Killed For Fighting Back

People in Kenya called Mohawk the “ladies lion,” since he was often in the company of females. Mohawk sported a shock of hair atop his head, inspiring his name, and he was well-loved by tourists who visited Nairobi National Park.

But on Wednesday, Mohawk was killed in a hail of bullets after he attacked a motorcyclist. The animal management team that responded to reports the lion had slipped out of the park didn’t have tranquilizers and used lethal force instead, the Washington Post reported.

Now, news is emerging that the lion was harassed by humans for hours before officials responded and killed him. Kenyans are outraged, calling the act “heinous.”

According to the Post and The Star, Kenya, a group of men from a town 20 miles from the capital of Nairobi, called Isinya, had surrounded Mohawk. He’d been “cornered, surrounded, taunted, and stoned” for six hours. Finally, the lion raised a paw to a human.

That human was a 27-year-old man riding a motorcycle past the scene. He was knocked down and clawed — suffering severe lacerations to his back, the New York Times added — as the lion tried to flee from his abusers.

Locals tried to protect the Mohawk before animal management arrived to tranquilize and capture him, but the crowd swelled to 400 people, and the lion was attacked with arrows and spears. The crowd’s size, rowdiness, and noise visibly agitated the lion.

Unfortunately, the team had only rifles in hand, no tranquilizers. A second team, carrying tranquilizers, was en route, so they stood guard and waited for the reinforcements. However, the situation escalated, and they had no choice but to kill Mohawk in order to avoid further injury or death.

“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,” said Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Gathitu.

Video captured of the scene showed Mohawk wandering among cars before charging after people standing in the back of a pickup truck. The lion was killed by a ranger while walking across unpopulated farmland. He was filmed roaring and writhing in pain as he was struck with nine bullets.

Resident Jason Parantai blamed the crowd for Mohawk’s death, whom he described as stressed by the experience.

“If the rangers had the right equipment, this lion would not have died. You can’t keep a lion in the midst of people for so many hours without stressing it. We blame them for this heinous act.”

Mohawk escaped the park two days before after a territorial dispute with another lion. He walked south looking for new territory, slipping out of the protected area through an unfenced spot. This is the third time in two months the predators have escaped; one ended up in a military barracks and another near an airport.

The African lion is considered a “vulnerable” species; its population has been halved in the past two decades. Mohawk was one of 35 that lived in the park and one of 2,000 in Kenya. He had a five-year-old companion, and according to a spokesman for Kenya Wildlife Services, the lion was considered beloved.

The park’s lion population has actually been flourishing, growing tenfold since 1946. But these days, the lands around their protected home aren’t empty, and lions like Mohawk wander into suburbs, farms, and buildings.

Lions are leaving the park because of construction on its western and southern sections. Construction has also damaged the electric fencing meant to keep them in. Officials are trying to fix this problem.

Meanwhile, a lion in South Africa named Sylvester has a bounty on his head after he escaped Karoo National Park. Officials were at first prepared to kill him for being troublesome and a potential “danger to humans,” but social media outrage has since softened this position.

Although lethal force isn’t off the table, the authorities will try to capture Sylvester and send him to a park or private conservation group.

[Image via GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock]

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