Being the lion king of the Serengeti is not a job with a great retirement plan. Conservation officers at Tanzania's Serengeti National Park say Bob Jr., a pride leader considered Africa's most photogenic lion, was attacked and killed by a group of younger rivals that probably included some of his offspring. Bob Jr., also known as Snyggve, was an "exceptionally handsome" animal, Craig Packer, director of the lion research center at the University of Minnesota, tells the Washington Post. "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 says.
"He had such a luxurious and impressive mane that people would immediately react to that, and all he had to do was sit up," Packer says. Bob Jr. ruled the pride for seven years with help from his brother Tryggve. Serengeti conservation officer Fredy Shirima tells the BBC that Tryggve was also killed in a separate but apparently coordinated attack from the younger lions. "These incidents normally happen when the head of a pride becomes old or sometimes when the other male lions are not happy with his control over a large territory," Shirima says.
Bob Jr. was around 10 years old, close to the age when lions are considered over the hill, and wildlife experts say his death was an entirely normal part of the cycle of life in the Serengeti. His genes will live on through his many offspring, conservationists say. The lion "led a good life," Packer says. "The way he died, that’s the way most males go who reach that exalted status—that’s the price they pay." The BBC notes that according to local media, Bob Jr. didn't put up a fight when he was attacked on Saturday. Wildlife officials plan to hold a burial ceremony. (Read more Serengeti stories.)