Attaaaaboy, Jericho! Do your apex predator thang, son.
Reports of Jericho’s demise began circulating Saturday after Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told CNN that the lion was killed by a hunter “operating illegally” in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
“I’m very gutted, I’m very disappointed, I’m heartbroken,” Rodrigues told USA Today. “It’s just too much.”
For several hours Saturday, the rest of the world also was heartbroken as news of Jericho’s death spread across social media. Then, on the third hour, a miracle was visited upon lion lovers everywhere: Jericho rose (sort of).
Not only was Jericho not dead, he and Cecil were never blood brothers. In a scandalous twist that could have come from the writers of Fox’s “Empire,” the two males apparently had an “arrangement,” one that might best be described as a domestic partnership with collectivistic undertones, according to a mind-blowing statement released by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit:
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.
In an apology posted on Facebook, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is blaming their false report on a case of “mistaken identity.”
“Jericho is in fact alive and well and has adopted Cecil’s cubs,” the statement says. “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.”
This week, Rodrigues told the Daily Mail that Jericho was keeping Cecil’s cubs safe from rival males. He said that he suspected that the window for rivals taking over the pride and killing the cubs had passed.
American dentist Walter Palmer has admitted to shooting Cecil with a bow and arrow and injuring the lion last month, according to an account detailed by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a nongovernmental group. After tracking the 13-year-old lion for about 40 hours, Palmer is alleged to have killed the animal with a gun. Cecil was then beheaded and skinned.
Palmer, a Minnesota resident, said Tuesday that “I deeply regret” killing “a known, local favorite” and that he relied on local guides. He said he was led to believe that the hunt was legal. “I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have,” Palmer said at the time.
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