Conservationists in Zimbabwe fear that Cecil the lion’s brother, Jericho, had been shot by poachers.
But there was confusion as to the big cat’s fate as alternative reports suggested that movement across the Hwange National Park could still be tracked on his GPS collar and that he was alive.
In a case that sparked global outrage, Cecil was killed earlier this month by Walter Palmer, a US dentist who reportedly paid more than $50,000 to join the hunt.
Jericho had been seen in recent days looking after Cecil’s cubs. Experts now believe the family’s lionesses could be exposed to poachers and other dangers.
Earlier this evening, .Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said: “It is with great sadness and regret that we report that Jericho was shot dead. We are absolutely heartbroken.” He added that the gunman had been operating illegally.
But a few hours later, Hwange lion researcher Brent Stapelkamp said a GPS signal could still be traced and that Jericho appeared “alive and well”.
Palmer has admitted killing but said he believed he had the right hunting licence and did not know Cecil was part of a conservation study. Environment Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, has called for Mr Palmer, who has not been seen since his identity was revealed, to face justice in Zimbabwe.