Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho shot and killed by poachers

Cecil the lion

It’s hard to imagine the story of Cecil the lion, who was illegally shot and killed in Zimbabwe by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer earlier this month, getting any worse–but, unfortunately, it has. Cecil’s brother Jericho was shot and killed by poachers in Zimbabwe’s Huwange National Park on Saturday afternoon. Jericho had reportedly stepped into his sibling’s role and was protecting Cecil’s cubs from other male lions prior to the killing.

Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, shared the news in a statement. “It is with great sadness and regret,” Rodrigues said, “that we report that Jericho was shot dead at 4pm this afternoon. We are absolutely heartbroken. We have no further details but will advise as soon as we know more.”

UPDATE – It appears the reports of Jericho’s death (and his relations to Cecil) were greatly exaggerated. “Jericho was seen alive and well at 06.15am,” Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit said Sunday. “He has been feeding on a giraffe kill with the lionesses from his pride.” The site shared a current photo of Jericho and then pointed out that he is not, in fact, Cecil’s brother. They explained the misunderstanding:

Many people have asked if Jericho and Cecil were brothers. They were not related though their bond was one close to brotherhood. 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. In fact 42% of male lion coalitions are genetically unrelated, though larger coalitions tend to be brothers or half-brothers. This sort of detailed understanding of lion ecology and social behaviour, which takes years of meticulous work allows conservationists to devise the most appropriate conservation strategies to conserve these iconic cats.

Here is a photo of Jericho (top) with Cecil a month before Cecil was shot:

Meanwhile, dentist Walter Palmer remains in hiding. Walter’s rep said in a statement this week that his client “voluntarily” reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement on Thursday.