When American “trophy” hunting dentist Walter Palmer killed the popular Zimbabwe lion known as Cecil in July, he didn’t just kill a lion — he set off a chain of sorrow, grief, and violence that has now led to the death of a defenseless young lion cub sired by Cecil, killed by a rival lion, according to sources inside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Britan’s Sunday Mirror newspaper quoted the “respected source” explaining that one of Cecil’s eight cubs has been killed, the pride of lions once ruled by Cecil before he was cruelly slain by Palmer and his local guides, to whom Palmer paid about $50,000 for the privilege.
The remainder of the now-embattled lions have found several hiding places, but they must go on the run from the other lions who seek to take control of the pride and claim Cecil’s former mate for their own.
“Lions practice infanticide — the male looking to take over and mate with the three lionesses would have crushed the cub’s skull as he looked to stake his claim,” the source told the Mirror. “The lionesses fended off his advances but it is unlikely they can continue to protect the cubs for much longer.”
The three female lions now in charge of the seven remaining cubs must keep moving, the expert says, but the young cubs are most likely not developed enough to cover long distances quickly, leaving them vulnerable to the other lions that hunt them.
None of what wildlife experts call the “disaster” now facing the cubs would have occurred if Palmer had not killed Cecil in order to claim his head and skin as “trophies.”
Cecil has a “brother,” another lion who is not genetically related to Cecil but formed a close bond with the now-slain lion, named Jericho, who had been an outcast from his own pride because his own two brothers were killed by “trophy” hunters.
But Jericho’s own life was likely saved by his “brotherhood” with Cecil — but Palmer took that alliance away with his bow and arrow as well.
Researchers have an unusual quantity of knowledge about the behavior of the lions in Hwange National Park because many, including Cecil, were fitted with high-tech collars that allowed Oxford University scientists to closely track their activities.
But the study has frequently been interrupted by trophy hunters who have killed at least 23 of the lions who wore collars attached by the Oxford scientists.
The Oxford lion study has run continuously for 20 years, and researchers first fit Cecil with the collar seven years ago and got to know him intimately in the time since. Cecil was 13-years-old when Walter Palmer — who remains in hiding — killed him.
[Images: Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Facebook]