Robert Henderson's picture

The Old King

Bob Jr. was an African, Black Maned Lion whose sire was the famous, original Bob Marley. With his brother Marley, the "Kings of the Serengeti" ruled their pride for over 7 years, and sired many cubs. In March 2023 Bob Jr. and Marley were killed by a coalition of younger males in a territorial battle to take over the pride. Photographers and visitors to the Serengeti all over the world mourned their passing.

Bob Jr. had an instantly recognizable, very dark mane, many scars, and very dark eyes. He always looked angry (and hungry). His home range was in the Central Area of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. He was without question the most strikingly photogenic lion I have ever encountered. But in this picture from November 2022, it was clear that Bob Jr. was getting older, and his many battles had clearly taken a toll. The Circle of Life ends in only one way for a warrior king like Bob Jr.

But it wasn't just age and a very hard life. The short grass savannah in the Central Serengeti area where we were following the lions in November, 2022 had been burned over in a controlled burn a few weeks prior to our visit. The grass had been burned down to a very short, reddish-brown stubble. The burn extended over a sizeable fraction of the entire national park. This clearly had an effect on the lions. Most of the game had deserted the area, and the lions were visibly affected. Bob Jr. walked in a shambling crouch very different from his gait the last time we saw him in 2019. His skin was hanging loosely on his frame, and you could count every rib. He constantly nuzzled and rubbed against his brother Marley. He was still formidable, but a shade of his former self when the brothers were attacked by the rival males.

A special thank you goes to our Namiri Plains guide Anderson Mwampashe, who patiently tracked the lions all day and into the evening with us looking for the perfect shot

I took the image with a Canon EOS R6 with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM extender lens, handheld. The exposure settings were 1/1250 sec at f/4, ISO 250, 343 mm. Taken November 9, 2022.

Canon R6
343 mm · f/4.0 · 1/1250 sec · ISO 250
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