Jericho, the lion reputed to be both Cecil's brother and killed in a hunt yesterday, is neither, say researchers in Zimbabwe.
"Jericho was seen alive and well" at 6:15 a.m. Sunday morning, said David Macdonald, director of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), which has been tracking the lions at Hwange National Park. "He has been feeding on a giraffe kill with the lionesses from his pride."
He also noted that Jericho, widely called Cecil's brother, is not actually related to the black-maned cat that set off an international focus on trophy hunting when he was illegally killed with bow and arrow by an American dentist last week.
"They were not related though their bond was one close to brotherhood," Macdonald said. "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."
The scare began Saturday afternoon when the nonprofit Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force posted a report that Jericho had been shot and killed illegally by a hunter. Brent Stapelkamp, a field researcher with WildCRU, questioned the report immediately, saying that data from Jericho's tracking collar suggested he was doing just fine.
The task force released a statement on its Facebook page Sunday. "We apologize for reporting that he had died," it said. "This was a case of mistaken identity, but a lion has in fact been killed."
The statement also said that Jericho had adopted Cecil's cubs, though according to the Oxford University team, it can't really be known which cubs are Cecil's. The pair shared two prides of six lionesses and an estimated 24 young cubs.
"We can only assume who the father is," said WildCRU researcher Brent Stapelkamp, who has been studying the lion since 2008. "Jericho would look after them even if they were Cecil's."
Officials at Hwange National Park could not be reached for comment Sunday, but the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said Saturday it was suspending all hunts of lions, leopards, and elephants in areas outside the Hwange park. It also noted that it had made an arrest on "allegations of breaching hunting regulations." Stapelkamp said he did not have details on the latest alleged lion kill.
Cecil had been lured outside the park with bait by the hunter, Walter J. Palmer, and local guides. The 13-year-old lion's death sparked an outcry over trophy hunting and more than $450,000 in donations to WildCRU, the group that has been tracking lions at Hwange in order to protect them. Authorities in Zimbabwe are seeking Palmer's extradition.