The brother of Cecil, the lion killed in Zimbabwe by an American hunter last month, is not dead, a researcher monitoring the pride told Reuters, contradicting media reports that Jericho had been killed.
“He looks alive and well to me as far as I can tell,” said Brent Stapelkamp, field researcher for the Hwange Lion Research Project which is monitoring the lion with a GPS tag.
A group called the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force posted on its Facebook page that Jericho had been killed at 4 p.m. on Saturday, a report picked up by some Western news media that was rapidly spread on Twitter.
That generated a furious reaction on the social networking site where animal lovers had already been expressing their fury at the killing on July 1 of Cecil, a rare black-maned lion that was a familiar sight at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Stapelkamp said readings from Jericho’s GPS tag indicated he was moving around as usual and appeared to be with a female.
“When I heard that report, I had a look on the computer and his movements look regular. He sent a GPS point from his collar from 8:06 p.m. (1806 GMT). Everything looks fine,” Stapelkamp told Reuters.
Earlier on Saturday, Zimbabwe’s parks authority imposed an indefinite ban on big game hunting outside the national park from which Cecil was lured before being killed on July 1.
A source at the parks agency told Reuters a second lion had been killed illegally by a foreign hunter in Zimbabwe on July 3. That has not been confirmed by officials.
The erroneous reports of Jericho’s death elicited strong reactions on the heels of the killing of his ally, Cecil. Cecil’s death at the hands of a lion hunter sparked international outrage because he was a protected animal. Zimbabwe is seeking the extradition of American dentist Walter Palmer, who is accused — along with at least two others — of illegally hunting the lion, authorities said.
“We apologize for reporting that (Jericho) had died but were confident that our sources were in fact correct,” the conservation task force said in a Facebook post Sunday.
Cecil and Jericho have been referred to as brothers, though David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford, said the lions were not blood relatives.
“They were not related, though their bond was one close to brotherhood,” Macdonald said in a statement. “Male lions often form what are termed co-operative ‘coalitions’ with unrelated males in order to better compete with other males for territories and prides.”
Jericho is apparently caring for and defending Cecil’s cubs, and the survivability of those cubs would have been imperiled if Jericho had indeed been killed.
Cecil, who was killed in early July, mated with about six lionesses and had about 24 cubs, Rodrigues has said.