As many as 12 cubs were placed in jeopardy by Cecil's death, researchers noted, as any lion taking over the pride would likely seek to kill them.

Cecil The Lion’s Brother Is Protecting His Cubs

Researchers have announced that Cecil the lion’s cubs are being protected by the fallen animal’s brother, even as they fear that the offspring could be threatened by a rival male.

The killing of Cecil by American dentist Walter Palmer not only sparked worldwide outrage, but also endangered the lives of as many as 12 cubs in the lion’s family, researchers told NBC News earlier this week. Conservationists who had tracked the lion since 2008 openly expressed fear for Cecil’s cubs, noting that the complexities of lions’ social lives made it likely that another male would kill them in order to father his own offspring.

“The natural law in lion society is that when a male dies and his weakened coalition is usurped, the new incoming males kill their predecessors’ cubs,” project leader David Macdonald asserted. “This may not happen because Cecil’s brother is still holding the fort.”

It now appears that Cecil’s cubs are unlikely to suffer that fate. Though the research team from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit feared that the next animal in the hierarchy, Jericho, may kill the cubs, they note that he is instead safeguarding them. That assessment was echoed by Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, as the Daily Mail reports.

“Everything is fine, Jericho has taken over the pride and all the cubs are safe,” he noted.

Jericho and Cecil had formed a “coalition” in their pride prior to the lion’s death, according to the Daily Beast, joining forces against other rival males. Describing Cecil as the dominant lion, they point out that Jericho filled a “sidekick” role. Experts had suggested a number of succession scenarios for Cecil’s pride, including one in which Jericho killed his former allies’ cubs. Others asserted that Jericho could be killed by rival lions, leaving the cubs again in danger.

Though Palmer has admitted to killing Cecil, he has not been seen in public since news of the 13-year-old lion’s death broke. This week, authorities in Zimbabwe asserted that they would seek extradition in the matter, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

Rodrigues also pointed out that if the cubs were to be killed, they would have died several weeks ago when Cecil did, suggesting that the young lions may now be safe.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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