Goodbye Conan

Born Free is sad to report the tragic death of a young wild lion in Meru National Park in Kenya – known and loved by our team since his birth, in February 2019.

A young wild lion lying in the long grass with his mane blowing in the wind

Conan (c) Born Free Kenya

Born Free is deeply saddened by the unexpected death of Conan, a young lion entering his prime years in Meru National Park, in Kenya, who recently died due to natural causes aged just four years. Some 220 miles NE from Nairobi, the Meru Conservation Area is home to a spectacular array of species, including the iconic African lion. Our team has recorded 93 individual lions in our identification database – each one known and monitored by our Pride of Meru lion team.  

Meru is Born Free’s homeland, where Elsa the lioness was returned to the wild. In 2014, we set up the Pride of Meru conservation programme to monitor and protect its lion population. Since then, we have been implementing varied activities to reduce conflict between people and wild animals, engage the local community in lion conservation and secure their habitat.

Over the years, Born Free has monitored Meru’s lions and recorded details in our comprehensive identification database, tracking their movements, noting their unique behaviours and watching their cubs grow and thrive. Amongst all these amazing stories, however, we also see tragedies unfold. Whenever we can, Born Free and our partners step in to save wildlife, ensuring that every individual is offered the best opportunity to continue to live their life in the wild, where they belong. Unfortunately, this was not possible for Conan.

In February 2019, we were thrilled when G-coy, a lioness from Meru’s Mulika pride, gave birth to two cubs. With our team closely watching, G-coy and her pride managed to safely get Conan and his sister Arusha through their first year; a perilous time for a cub. In early 2021, when Conan and Arusha were two years old, G-coy departed to join Mfalme, a large but gentle male. Despite her absence, Conan and Arusha stuck together and found a safe haven in and around Mawe ya Simba, Kubai Road, Kampi ya Fisi and Leopard Rock in Meru National Park. They even tried to join Elsa’s pride – a large and well-established pride in the park – but received strong resistance from the females.

“Our team frequently saw Conan and Arusha, growing healthy and thriving in Meru’s beautiful wild habitat,” explains Michael Mugo, Pride of Meru Manager. “From his size, our team expected Conan to soon become one of the big and dominant males in Meru ecosystem.”

Meru National Park is a huge landscape and monitoring all the lions in the area is a tough job. Through our ‘Citizen Scientist’ scheme, Born Free works closely with tourist lodges in Meru National Park to help us keep an eye on the lions.

“On 27th October 2023, Mohamed, a guide from Elsa Kopje lodge on his normal night safari drive, came across a dead lion near the Mulika pride area,” Michael continued. “Without hesitation, he rang our team and shared the photos he had carefully captured. With the help of our lion identification database, we confirmed the dead lion was sadly Conan. We informed the Kenya Wildlife Service vet, Dr Duncan Aminga, who joined us in the field the following morning. It appeared that Conan died from a fight with another male, likely over territory and breeding rights.”

“The natural life of a lion, especially males, can be brutal and tough, yet Conan had survived the odds up until this point,” Michael continued. “It is tragic to lose him just as he was coming into his prime, but the fine line between life and death, whether by natural causes or due to human-made threats is always precarious.

“With Conan in our hearts, Born Free will continue our work to protect every individual lion and keep their stories alive. Thank you for your support.”