Zimbabwe parks confirm Jericho the lion alive amid Cecil furore
Zimbabwe wildlife authorities on Sunday dismissed rumours that a second lion, known as Jericho, had been slain after the killing last month of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter caused a global outcry.
“The lion known as Jericho is still alive and being monitored by Brent Stapelias of the Lion Research Project,” Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement.
“It is also important to note that Jericho is a ‘coalition’ partner to Cecil and not a blood related sibling,” it said.
The conservation group Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force had said Saturday that it had been “informed” of the death of Jericho, described as Cecil’s brother.
The announcement was swiftly picked up by global media, causing consternation among animal lovers who were outraged by Walter Palmer’s killing of Zimbabwe’s best-known lion, renowned for his black mane, outside Hwange park.
But the Friends of Hwange Trust urged the public to treat the ZCTF’s announcement about Jericho with caution, saying the reports “appear to be untrue”.
Palmer, a wealthy Minnesota dentist, shot Cecil with a crossbow and arrow earlier this month during a hunt that cost him $55,000.
His guide, Theo Bronkhorst, has denied allegations that they spent the next 40 hours tracking the wounded animal before finishing him off with a gun. Instead he said they found the lion early the next morning and killed it with the crossbow.
Bronkhorst also strongly denied that the hunters had lured the animal out of Hwange.
Palmer, who is being investigated by the US government over Cecil’s death, has apologised and said he was misled by Bronkhorst.
But Bronkhorst told AFP on Friday that they had “shot an old male lion that I believed was past his breeding age… I don’t think that I’ve done anything wrong”.
– ‘Most hated man in America’ –
Bronkhorst, who was charged this week with “failing to prevent an illegal hunt”, claimed both he and Palmer had been “devastated” when they realised Cecil was wearing a collar.
Cecil was a popular tourist draw at the park and was wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project.
“Both I and the client were extremely devastated that this thing had a collar on because at no time did we see a collar on this lion prior to shooting it,” Bronkhorst told AFP.
“We had done everything above board,” he said.
“I don’t foresee any jail sentence at all. I think it’s been blown out of proportion by social media and I think it’s been a deliberate ploy to ban all hunting.
“It has probably changed my family’s life, my business, forever… We have had many, many death threats.”
Zimbabwe called for Palmer’s extradition as worldwide outrage over the shooting swelled. US authorities have opened a probe into the killing.
On Saturday a giant picture of Cecil was among images projected onto the Empire State Building in New York in a dazzling display designed to raise awareness about the plight of endangered animals.
Palmer was branded by US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as “the most hated man in America” and has been vilified on social media globally.
He has issued a statement expressing regret at the killing but said he had no idea the lion was protected and part of a study and that he thought the hunt was legal.
He has not appeared in public.
Zimbabwe’s parks authority Saturday announced restrictions on hunting around Hwange park, including an immediate suspension of the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants.