Bob Jr., who was hailed as Africa’s most photogenic lion, has been killed by his rivals. He was 10 to 13 years old.
The striking lion with amber eyes and a golden-black mane — who was named after his father, dubbed Bob Marley by tour guides after the famed Jamaican reggae singer because of his lustrous, distinctive hair — once ruled over his pride in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Local media and wildlife tour groups said the “Serengeti King” was killed over the weekend by a pack of younger, fitter lions — and some of them may have been related to him.
Bob Jr., also known as Snyggve, “was just always an exceptionally handsome animal,” Craig Packer, professor and director of the lion research center at the University of Minnesota, said via telephone from the neighboring Maasai Mara reserve.
“This male lived in an area where he was very visible and would just knock your socks off because he was so good-looking,” Packer said of Bob Jr. “He had such a luxurious and impressive mane that people would immediately react to that, and all he had to do was sit up.”
Keith Somerville, a British conservationist and author of “Humans and Lions,” said he last saw Bob. Jr in 2016. He was exceptionally photogenic, Somerville said, but it was his mane that stood out the most. “I’ve seen an awful lot of lions, and I’ve never seen a lion with such an amazing mane,” he said.
Serengeti National Park did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but media in Tanzania reported that Bob Jr. was killed by three younger rivals during a territorial battle near the Namiri Plains.
“I think this is entirely normal and part of the cycle of life, where the survival of the fittest reigns,” said Rob Marchant, a professor of tropical ecology at the University of York.
“I am not sure which lions killed Bob Jr., but it could be quite likely that his offspring — now young and fitter — were the perpetrators. I am sure the genes of Bob Jr. will continue to live on through the many offspring he has fathered over the years,” Marchant said.
On average, Serengeti lions reach their prime and full size around 4 years old, Packer said, and are considered over the hill by age 12.
They rise to the top of their social order by operating in “coalitions,” he added, as groups of male lions keep competitors for females and food at bay. The strength of a lion’s roar is often an indicator to would-be rivals of a coalition’s dominance and numbers, he said.
“We are so individually minded … but it’s a numbers game that lions play. If there’s a younger but larger group, then they’re going to be on the ascent at the expense of the fewer and the older,” Packer added.
Bob Jr. — in a break with the arc of the Disney movie “The Lion King” — ruled in a pair with his brother Tryggve. His brother, known as “Marley,” is reported to have been killed in a separate but related battle.
This is the worst weekend ever!!
It’s now been confirmed that Tryggve was also killed by the coalition of 7 males 😭💔
Two iconic legends of Namiri Plains are gone 👑👑
RIP Kings Tryggve and Snyggve!
Sons of the famous lions C-boy & Hildur.
📸 Alex G Perez pic.twitter.com/ajAMREUN7p
— LION LOVERS (@LIONLOVERS5) March 12, 2023
“This is normal — it’s typically what happens,” said Packer, who works in conservation and spent time with Bob. Jr when he was a cub. “He was eventually ousted and killed by a trio.”
“He was much, much older and on his own. … It’s sad, but also it’s the way lions live,” Somerville added. However, the younger cubs in his pride may now seek retribution, he added, or face being killed in turn by the new rulers.
The Tanzania Times mourned the loss of “probably the best looking lion in Eastern Africa” but said Bob Jr. “ends his legacy with honor.”
One safari group, Asilia Africa, paid tribute to Bob Jr. for his “distinctive and luxuriant black mane,” calling him “one of Africa’s most iconic lions,” whose life was an “incredible journey of pride takeovers and losses.”
Serengeti National Park is home to at least 3,000 lions, as well as elephants, rhinos, wildebeest and other wild animals. The northern Tanzania park is also a U.N. World Heritage site and attracts thousands of tourists from across the globe each year.
Bob Jr. “led a good life,” Packer said. “The way he died, that’s the way most males go who reach that exalted status — that’s the price they pay.