Cecil the lion’s brother is alive, Zimbabwe government says

SHARE Cecil the lion’s brother is alive, Zimbabwe government says
SHARE Cecil the lion’s brother is alive, Zimbabwe government says

HARARE, Zimbabwe — After conflicting reports earlier in the day that the brother of Cecil the lion had been killed, the Zimbabwe National Parks & Wildlife Management Authority officially confirmed later Saturday that the lion, named Jericho, is still alive and well in Hwange National Park.

One conservation group in Zimbabwe had reported Jericho’s death earlier Saturday. Cecil’s killing by a Minnesota dentist sparked outrage around the globe, and the possibility of his brother launched a similar stream of invective onto social media.

“It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil’s brother has been killed at 4 p.m. today,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force posted on its Facebook page Saturday afternoon. “We are absolutely heart broken. We will update you all as soon as we have more details.”

But the Bhejane Trust, about an hour later, put up its own Facebook post saying Jericho was fine.

“False information being put out about Jericho – brother to Cecil – being shot today,” the group posted.

“According to Brent Staplekamp at Hwange Lion Research, Jericho was alive and well at 8:30 tonight and moving around Antoinette Estate ( where Cecil was shot) with a female. I can assure you no one is hunting lion on Antoinette after the Cecil incident!! This false information probably stems from a current Parks investigation into another lion shot on a nearby farm on 2nd July. More information to follow.”

Then, about 4 p.m. Chicago time, the Bhejane Trust posted this on Facebook:

“Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management officially confirmed Jericho is still alive and well in Hwange National Park.”

However, the wildlife authority had no information to that effect posted on its website as of late Saturday afternoon.

Zimbabwe is seven hours ahead of Chicago.

A lion researcher in Zimbabwe also cast doubt on the report of the shooting death of the second lion.

The satellite collar on Jericho has been sending normal signals, indicating the lion is alive and moving around, researcher Brent Stapelkamp told The Associated Press.

And though the Conservation Task Force referred to Jericho as Cecil’s brother, the Associated Press called him a “companion,” adding that Cecil had befriended Jericho, according to Stapelkamp. Together they oversaw two prides, one with three lionesses and seven cubs and another with three lionesses.

Also on Saturday, Zimbabwe suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the area where Cecil, who was popular with tourists, was killed, and is investigating the killing of another lion in April that may have been illegal, the country’s wildlife authority said Saturday.

In addition, bow and arrow hunts have been suspended unless they are approved by the head of the director of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the organization said. The authority said it only received information this week about the possibly illegal killing of a lion in April. An arrest has been made in that case, officials said.

The announcement follows an international outcry stemming from an American hunter’s killing Cecil, who allegedly was lured out of a national park. Zimbabwean authorities say the hunt was illegal and are seeking the extradition of Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer.

Palmer is believed to have shot the lion with a bow on July 1 outside Hwange National Park after it was lured onto private land with a carcass of an animal, Zimbabwean conservationists have said. The wounded cat was later tracked down and Palmer allegedly killed it with a gun, they said. Two Zimbabweans — a professional hunter and a farm owner — have been arrested for the killing.

Palmer has said he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal.

“Hunting of lions, leopards and elephants outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect,” Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority said in a statement. Any such hunts can only be conducted if confirmed and authorized by the head of the wildlife authority and if the hunters are accompanied by parks staff, it said.

The wildlife authority said it was necessary to tighten hunting regulations outside the park “following the killing of the iconic lion Cecil.”

Police arrested a Zimbabwean land owner in the case of a lion that was killed in April in the same area where Cecil was fatally shot, said Geoffrey Matipano, conservation director for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

“The outrage over Cecil could have helped because people are now more aware and ready to come with information,” Matipano said, adding that they suspect it was an illegal trophy hunt.

Hwange is favored by hunters because of its teeming wildlife, Matipano said. Only two lions were illegally killed last year, he said.

Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said his association could lose business as a result of the new hunting ban, but added that the measures were necessary to protect wildlife.

“Hunting brings in no less than $40 million a year,” he said.

Contributing: Associated Press

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