Cecil's brother Jericho 'alive and well,' says researcher, after reports lion was killed

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 the lion had been killed.

Conflicting reports Saturday about well-being of Cecil's brother Jericho

Jericho, brother to the famous slain lion Cecil, shown in this photo, is alive and well despite reports to the contrary, a researcher monitoring the pride says. (Nature Encounter Tours & Travel Ltd/Carol Petersen)

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 the lion 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 animal 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. GMT. Everything looks fine," Stapelkamp told Reuters.

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.

Hunting ban

The national parks agency on Saturday imposed an indefinite ban on big game hunting outside Hwange National Park, where Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, was lured before being killed on July 1.

"Hunting of lions, leopards and elephant in areas outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect," Edison Chidziya, head of the parks authority, said in a statement.

The statement did not mention the death of a second lion. 

Cecil's killing by American dentist Walter Palmer raised global awareness of big game hunting, a lucrative tourism draw for some African countries where tourists can pay tens of thousands of pounds to track and kill lions and other large animals.

A Zimbabwean court last week charged a professional hunter with failing to prevent Palmer from unlawfully killing Cecil. The game park owner where the lion was killed is expected to appear in court next week.

Palmer, who had paid guides for the hunt, said he believed the necessary permits had been in order, but Zimbabwe is seeking his extradition from the United States to be tried for poaching.

The killing of 13-year-old Cecil, a lion that had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study, has increased calls in the West to clamp down on big game hunting.

Supporters of regulated hunting say it generates revenue for African countries, which can be used on conservation and to discourage poaching.

The head of Zimbabwe's Safari Operators Association, Emmanuel Fundira, said the new restrictions would hit earnings from hunting, which generated $45 million in 2014.

With files from CBC News

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