A lion in Zimbabwe named Jericho, who is said to be the brother of Cecil (pictured above), the lion infamously killed by American dentist Walter Palmer earlier in July, is alive and well and was even photographed by an Oxford University researcher who has placed electronic collars on both Cecil and Jericho to track their movements as part of a wide-ranging study.
Jericho was reportedly killed by an illegal hunter, a claim that was widely circulated through global media on Saturday. But the leading Zimbabwe conservationist who says he was the source of the report has now apologized, saying that he was misled by a journalist and describing himself as "very embarrassed" by the false report.
Oxford University scientist Brent Stapelkamp photographed a lion he identified as Jericho at about 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, which would be 12:15 a.m. United States Eastern Time.
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) August 2, 2015
But the news from Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park was not all good.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force — whose chairperson Johnny Rodrigues was the source of the mistaken Jericho death report — said Sunday on its Facebook page that the report of Jericho's slaying by an illegal hunter was "a case of mistaken identity."
While Jericho is alive and well — and reportedly is protecting the cubs left behind by Cecil, despite fears that he may, in fact, kill those lion cubs — another lion in the park was indeed slain by hunters.
"We apologize for reporting that he had died but were confident that our sources were in fact correct. This was a case of mistaken identity, but a lion has in fact been killed," the group said in the post. "Although we are relieved that it was not Jericho, we are not happy that yet another lion has been killed."
Though Jericho is generally described as Cecil the Lion's "brother," they are not actually part of the same bloodline, according to Oxford scientist David Macdonald. Instead, they were tied together though a little-known but common element of lion behavior in which males form close alliances with other males to better defend against enemy lions.
"They were not related, though their bond was one close to brotherhood," Macdonald said Sunday. "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."
Rodrigues explained how the erroneous story of Jericho's death originated in a written statement of his own, saying that a journalist called him and told him that Jericho had been slain.
"I was completely devastated by this news and I tried to confirm it," Rodrigues wrote. "I eventually got through to one of the wardens in Hwange who confirmed to me that Jericho had been killed. A couple of other people also confirmed the story."
But the confirmation turned out to refer to another lion who had been tragically slain by poachers, not Jericho, the "brother" of Cecil — a lion who, unfortunately, had not been given a name. The killer of that lion has not been identified. Rodrigues said he has no idea why the journalist targeted him with the false story.
[Image: YouTube Screen Capture]