Remembering Bob Jr.
Steve Discusses the Real Lion King’s Legacy in Tanzania
It was an extremely sad & somber day when we learned of the passing of one of our most respected lions, Bob Jr. It was one of the most impactful recent deaths in the Serengeti. I would like to take time to remember Bob Jr, who we referred to as the “Real” Lion King of the Serengeti here in Africa.
The news of Bob Jr.’s violent death made headlines in March 2023 when rival male lions came in to seize the territory that he & his brother dominated for years. I would like to share his story from my perspective as a Tanzanian & safari guide since he meant so much to us. While we are accustomed to the natural order of the death & birth of animals in the wild, the world-wide news of the loss of Bob Jr. made me reflect on how it has affected me & other guides & how it will affect future safari goers. Here is my recollection of Bob Jr.’s life, death and impact within the community.
The Story of Bob Jr.
Bob Jr. was born, along with his brother Tryggve, in 2011 in the Southern Serengeti to his dad Bob Sr., who ruled alongside his own brother Ziggy. Bob was named based on his now famous, very apparent dreadlocks. His son, Bob Jr. followed with his own distinctive mane. Bob Sr. & Ziggy dominated the prides in Central, Southern & Eastern Serengeti during their prime. Since Bob Sr. & Ziggy had control of five prides simultaneously, it was unlikely that Bob Jr & Tryggve would be able to dominate the Southern & Eastern prides. So, in 2017, Bob Jr. & Tryggve migrated to the Western Serengeti where they roamed the plains and gained full dominance of the area. They landed in Savannah Grassland on the Western Plains of the Serengeti. This area was previously closed by the park for almost 25 years for cheetah reproduction. These lucky boys discovered it after it was reopened.
What Made Bob Jr. Special?
Bob Jr. was recognizable due to his size and appearance. He looked very much like his dad with the major difference being that his dad’s mane had more prominent dreadlocks. He was arguably the most handsome lion in the Serengeti.
The very first time I saw Bob Jr, we had a moment where we locked eyes and he produced his famous growl that I felt deep inside my soul. He was so large that when he would stand beside our vehicle, he could almost reach the window to give us a high five!
Bob Jr. played a huge role protecting the pride by making sure it was safe in his territory. Lions growl when they are mating, eating or fighting. Their roars let intruders know whose land it is and to heed the warning not to come into their territory. With this, Bob Jr. only needed one growl, and he could fend off and scare away any predator.
One evening our group was out on a game drive exploring as usual when we came across Bob Jr. walking while raising his head high. We could sense that there was something out there that he had seen already so we started following him
to discover what was afoot. All of a sudden, we saw the whole pride feeding on Eland, the biggest Antelope in Africa. He led us to the scene.
He walked in and you could just feel the respect that the pride had for him. The pride had some young ones inside there but they never bothered him. It seemed Bob Jr. had finished his portion of the meal as we arrived, he stood there looking over them while they feasted on their share – like a proud papa. We were so elated by this amazing sighting. Dark was falling so we had to finally leave to go back to camp, but otherwise we would have stayed there for hours.
What I admired the most about Bob Jr, was that he made sure nothing would come and harm his pride. Especially when it came to the reproduction of the female lions. Some of his females were expecting newborns but with the new males taking off there’s a limited chance the cubs will survive. He was not an animal to mess around with, there was this time I was watching him and his cubs were around, with just one grawl the cubs all went separate ways.
The Death of Bob Jr.
Bob Jr. was one of the oldest & largest male lions in the area. We estimate that he was around 12 years old when he died. The way we determine the age is by the color of teeth from white to yellow (just like humans) and the second is spots on the body of male & female cubs. It is common for males to start losing their spots around the age of 2-3 years old. For females, they generally keep their spots until they are 3+ years old.
While Bob Jr. was still strong, he was not strong enough to be the leader of the pride forever. This was the ultimate reason for his violent death. This became evident in the summer of 2022. I noticed that he started scavenging for food & it was clear that he was not capable of leading & participating in hunting anymore.
The last time I saw Bob Jr was around July 2022. On March 11th of the following year, I learned of his death from a friend out in the Serengeti who messaged me the sad news. Shortly after I noticed the news had gone viral on social media & it was spread all over the globe that Bob Jr had died. Something so personal to me & my country was now being shared with the world. We were proud to know him.
How did he die?
It was discovered that Bob Jr. was killed by three rival males in the same pride. In the past, these three Lions tried to kill him multiple times with no success. However, this year his rivals finally won the battle. This is a common event as more fit lions will fight to take over the pride of a former ruler due to his age & inability to lead. He died exactly as he should, fighting until his last breath. His sons will carry the genes into the next generation. Perhaps a Bob III will emerge?
As far as his brother, Tryggve, there is still no evidence of him being killed, but the last time anyone saw his brother was a few days before Bob Jr. was killed.
How will his death affect the pride?
His death initially did put the pride at risk because other lions would be tempted to kill Bob Jr.’s cubs. However, lionesses are smart & tricky. Female lions have a way to trick other undesired male Lions from other prides by creating false oestrus. They fool the rival males while the other Lionesses take the cubs to a secret hideout. The females of his pride no doubt went into overdrive to protect their cubs from rivals of their father’s.
For Visitors of Serengeti: Will anything be different?
Yes & No. On an emotional level, the connection with him is that his story was unique and where his generation came from. For us, it was like owning a cat, except this was the kind of pet you could not cuddle with. Knowing his story was something we could use to both educate clients and share with honor.
The death of Bob Jr. won’t have an effect on the experience of safari goers. However, the death of Bob Jr. provided us with a wider platform to talk about some of the challenges occurring in the Serengeti, So his death may cause change and make a difference.
Lessons I learned From Bob Jr.
Some major lessons I learned watching Bob Jr. the last 12 years: patience, precision observation, being present in the moment & a hands on lesson in the circle of life that is normal amongst all prides.
It was an honor to be able to watch Bob Jr. from when he was a cub to his death. We guides are lucky to see the maturation of pride out in the wild, an experience you can’t find in books. One time, I got to experience how he spots and watches his kills. He was able to locate exact sites based on soaring vultures. We were just watching him, then all of a sudden he raised his head high to look at the sky and began walking. We initially thought that maybe he was looki.ng for shade. We didn’t know that on the other end vultures were landing. There were two cheetahs feeding on a gazelle. He then took over the kill while the cheetahs ran for their lives.
Shifting Wildlife Viewing Priorities
His death has brought up conversations about the changes in wildlife viewing. It has been a challenge in some parts of our national parks, especially the Serengeti. The park authorities have come up with rules that may impact clients’ wildlife views. For example, the great migration up north of Serengeti, the parks are implementing rules that will make it harder to get as close up as we used to. This will affect everyone, yet I would say for anyone not taking a private guided tour they will have more difficulties getting closer to the wild life.
In most cases, the restrictions are only in some parts, while the walking tours provide a more peaceful environment for the animals, creating an advantage of viewing the wildlife on foot. We have the opportunity to have zones where vehicles are restricted to ensure the wildlife is not disturbed.
Since, I am also one of the few local walking guides, I conduct walks in national parks in Tanzania including, Ruaha, Tarangire and Serengeti national parks in Tanzania.
With these changes, my role as a local business owner and guide is to make sure the wildlife is safe for both the wildlife and people coming from all over the world to experience my homeland.
I do this by providing the best quality private jeep tours that are more likely to experience top notch viewing, and walking tours that only a select few are able to do in the Serengeti.
Conservation Challenges that Lions in Africa are facing right now
There are issues with neighboring villages and the land itself that put lions in Africa at risk.
Due to how earth is changing right now and having lots of dry areas, animals move alot to look for food. This has the potential for other carnivores to move and go outside of the parks to look for livestock in surrounding villages. This puts the lions at risk of being killed by the villagers if the lions disrupt their village. For example, if a lion were to kill a cow on the village territory, the villagers become threatened and feel they need to protect their property and their safety.
What action can you take?
Visit us. Your support alone brings awareness & financial assistance that will help keep the animals safe.
Most importantly, I would like travelers to know that the moment you book your safari in Tanzania, you have helped wildlife and tourism in general. What a traveler pays goes towards: paying the park rangers, fixing the roads with bridges, buying cars for patrols inside the parks and internet. Currently, at every gate you have access to free Wi-Fi!
Bob Jr. will always be remembered for his special migration story by taking over with his brother & ruling the pride and being a huge inspiration to the guides, including myself.
Being able to watch the life of Bob Jr. was a tremendous gift. To witness such a majestic, beautiful, big and fearless leader will always be fond memories of mine. Bob Jr. will be remembered by other lions in his pride, and I can assure you that on your visit you will be able to experience just as magical moments with this joy, as I have.
Contact me directly! I am a locally owned business owner and will be happy to chat with you personally about taking a Safari with Ndifo. [email protected]
(All photos & videos taken by Ndifo Safari)