FACT CHECK: Jericho the lion appears to be alive and well, the victim of mistaken identity and not a hunter.
Different sources in Zimbabwe have been offering differing stories about Jericho, a lion who was touted as the heir apparent (and sometimes said to be the brother of) Cecil, the popular 13-year-old animal who was controversially killed by an American dentist there in July 2015.
On 1 August 2015, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) declared via a Facebook post that Jericho had also been shot and killed
It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil’s brother has been killed at 4pm today.
We are absolutely heart broken.
The tragic news was quickly spread online, but other sources, such as the Bhejane Trust, asserted that Jericho was alive and the victim of mistaken identity:
False information being put out about Jericho — brother to Cecil — being shot today. According to Brent Staplekamp at Hwange Lion Research, Jericho was alive and well at 8.30 tonight and moving around Antoinette Estate (where Cecil was shot) with a female. I can assure you no one is hunting lion on Antoinette after the Cecil incident!!
This false information probably stems from a current Parks investigation into another lion shot on a nearby farm on 2nd July.
The Bhejane Trust followed up with a couple of additional posts confirming that Jericho was still among the living:
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management officially confirmed Jericho is still alive and well in Hwange National Park.
Jericho has been tracked and photographed by Brent this morning. He is absolutely fine. Wild, unsubstantiated claim by ZCTF totally disproved, but unfortunately has caused damage to Zimbabwe’s reputation. CNN and other news agencies should have checked with reliable sources first. This illustrates the good work being done by the WILDCRU team in Hwange — well done Brent
The ZCTF then acknowledged their error in reporting the lion’s death:
Mistaken Identity — Jericho is in fact alive and well and has adopted Cecil’s cubs. We were given 3 separate confirmed reports last night that is was Jericho. We could not reach the research station in Hwange to verify if Jericho was indeed alive after they reported that they were receiving signal from his collar.
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…although we are relieved that it was not Jericho, we are not happy that yet another lion has been killed…
We understand that some people will be very upset about the report but please could we keep this face book page clear of derogatory slurs.
We would like to make it clear that we do NOT support trophy hunting and we do NOT issue permits or licenses to kill animals … in Zimbabwe. We are merely a concerned conservation group trying to help stop the slaughter of Zimbabwe’s beautiful animals.
NPR also reported that Jericho is not actually Cecil’s brother:
Dr. Andrew J. Loveridge, who helps run the research project in Hwange that’s part of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in Oxford’s Department of Zoology. They’re the ones who put tracking collars on both Jericho and Cecil, who was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.
As for the relationship between the two lions, Loveridge says, “Cecil and Jericho are not brothers, but male lions frequently form coalitions with unrelated males in order to successfully hold territories.”
Jericho had been mentioned in an update by the WCRU unit earlier Saturday, in which Dr. David Macdonald wrote that Jericho, who had previously been mentioned as a potential threat to Cecil’s cubs, was in fact helping to protect them.
“Cecil’s coalition involved a partnership with another beautiful male, nicknamed Jericho,” Macdonald wrote. “Jericho is as likely as Cecil to be the father of some of the cubs, so he has a stake in their survival. Right now, Jericho is in good health and he (and the lionesses) will defend the cubs.”