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Another African Lion May Be Dead By A Hunter's Hand, Reports Say

Both lions are part of an Oxford University study in the wild.

UPDATE (8/2/15, 2:30 p.m. ET): Jericho is alive, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit confirmed in a statement Sunday, and the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force apologized for reporting his death on Aug. 1. Also, Jericho was not Cecil's brother, WCRU said, "though their bond was one close to brotherhood."

Conflicting reports are coming in about whether or not Jericho, possibly the brother of the recently killed Cecil the lion, had also been slain by a hunter today (Aug. 1) in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force posted a note about Jericho's death on its Facebook page around 4 p.m. local time.

CNN later said that the head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force confirmed Jericho had indeed been killed. However, an Oxford University researcher later told CNN that the lion was still alive, based on GPS tracking information from his collar.

An Oxford researcher also told NPR that Jericho and Cecil are not brothers, despite reports to the contrary: "We believe this report is incorrect and will confirm with a sighting of the Jericho tomorrow (it is nightime here)."

Right now, Jericho's safety is still uncertain -- an especially troubling fact given some researchers beliefs that he had been tending to Cecil's cubs after Cecil's death. The cubs are in jeopardy of perishing without Jericho as they would have no adult lion to protect or nurture them. Then again, some researchers speculate Jericho could also kill the cubs in a dominance move, as is a trait of some male lions.

The news today comes mere days after American dentist and big game hunter Walter Palmer lured Cecil, a protected animal who was also outfitted with a GPS collar from Oxford, from his home and shot him with a bow and arrow, wounding him, then tracked and killed him with a gun 40 hours later. Authorities in Zimbabwe believe Palmer acted illegally and should be tried, and the U.S. government made contact with him on Friday, BuzzFeed confirmed.

The African lion population has declined by 42 percent in the past 21 years, according to data released last month by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. And looking at the past three decades, the rate of decline drops to nearly 60 percent, as the International Fund for Animal Welfare told CNN. That leaves approximately 32,000 of them in the wild.

We'll have updates on this story as it develops.


To learn more about how you can help African lions, check out National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative or visit LionAid.Org.