Rest in peace, Mohawk the Magnificent

He was one of the most photographed lions in the park

In Summary

• Mohawk reigned successfully not only because of his power but also coalitions

Mohawk sees male trio. / Gareth Jones
Mohawk sees male trio. / Gareth Jones

It was September 2007, on a cold, cloudy grey morning, as I drove along slowly. Suddenly a young lion emerged from the long grass and walked into the road. He looked to be about two years old and had a long, funky-looking tufty mane on the top middle of his head. Soon, people gave him the nickname “Mohawk” because of his immature mane.

At that stage, the king of the pride was a lion known as Ujanja, a mighty lion whom I believe was Mohawk’s father. However, the young prince Mohawk still had many years of maturing and testing moments before he also emerged as the king of the middle part of the park in 2011, when Ujanja was getting old.

Mohawk was a magnificent lion in almost every way — powerfully built with a dark black mane — and he was definitely popular with the lion ladies and many cubs came through him. I remember once being amazed that he killed a huge eland near No6 dam; the pride really enjoyed that feast.

For many years, I drove through Mohawk’s territory almost twice daily, and always looked to see if he was around. Sometimes he would go roaming for a week or two. But often, he was seen in his territory that consisted mainly of the Embakasi plains (from no4, 5, 6 and 7 junctions and the Eland valley area), Masai gate, and Kingfisher area and even stretched up into the forest. Mohawk reigned successfully not just because of his power but also because he had coalitions with various lions, like Charlie, Sam and Cheru.

On April 30, the sad news of Mohawk’s terrible killing quickly went global. We cannot bring him back. I know many people, including international tourists, loved him. He was one of the most photographed lions in the park, seemingly not bothered by people in cars all looking at him.

We hope and pray that justice for Mohawk and Lemek will follow, and that the Kenya Wildlife Service with ensure the future of the Nairobi National Park lions by improving conservation management methods. Rest in peace, Mohawk the Magnificent.

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