UPDATE: New reports from Jericho’s GPS tracker indicate that he is alive and on the move, contradicting reports from Zimbabwe Wildlife Officials.
The past week has been filled with outrage, sadness, and anger over the death of beloved Zimbabwe lion, Cecil, at the hands of an American trophy hunter. Today the African country announced another tragedy: Cecil’s older brother was shot and killed on Saturday afternoon.
“It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil’s brother, has been killed at 4pm today,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force wrote in a statement. “We are absolutely heartbroken.”
The details of Jericho’s death are still under investigation, but the killing is suspected to have been illegal, as he also lived in the protected Hwange National Park.
Cecil was beloved in Zimbabwe for his relaxed demeanor and involvement in an Oxford University study that tracked him with a GPS collar. After his death, researchers turned to Jericho.
“Jericho is a very experienced male,” Oxford researcher Brent Stapelkamp told the Telegraphearlier this week. “I caught him a few days after Cecil’s death. His collar had died some time before, and I put a new one on and we are watching him like hawks.”
Conservationists were eager to keep an eye on Jericho as Cecil’s death left his entire pride in jeopardy. Typically a rival male lion will kill off another male’s cubs to insert its own bloodline into the pride. But in the month since Cecil’s death, Jericho has been seen defending the cubs. Without these two dominant males to defend the area, even more of Hwange’s lions are in jeopardy.
Outrage of Cecil’s death surged when news surfaced that he was killed by Minnesotan dentist, Walter Palmer, who paid $50,000 for the hunt in which his guides allegedly lured the 13-year-old lion out of the reserve with bait before Palmer allegedly took the lion’s head home as a souvenir. Palmer maintains that he believed his and his guides’ actions to be legal.
Trophy hunts like Palmer’s are fairly common in Africa, with Americans making up more than half of foreign trophy hunts each year. Habitat loss (to humans), poaching, and big game trophy hunts have led to the 60 percent decline of the endangered species in Africa over the past 30 years; lions have lost 75 percent of their population in just two decades.
Zimbabwe officials, along with more than 200,000 Americans who signed a petition, have called on the dentist to be extradited to ZImbabwe to face charges. In the meantime, Palmer has shuttered his business and is reportedly cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.