One of Cecil the Lion‘s cubs has been murdered by a male trying to mate with the baby’s mother, Cathy.
From The Daily Mirror:
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His horrific death has sparked fears the remaining seven cubs – pictured exclusively here – have only days to live after their father was illegally slain on a trophy hunt.
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Wildlife guides warn the tiny pride – originally made up of three lionesses and eight cubs – has only a five per cent chance of survival after several solitary male lions were spotted prowling near their abandoned den in Hwange National Park.
A respected source at the Zimbabwe park confirmed: “One of the eight cubs was killed by a male lion after Cecil was killed.
“Lions practise infanticide – the male looking to take over and mate with the three lionesses would have crushed the cub’s skull as he looked to stake his claim.
“The lionesses fended off his advances but it is unlikely they can continue to protect the cubs for much longer.” He revealed that the pride has been hiding behind a water pan known as Kennedy Two since fleeing their den at Ngweshla – but need to keep moving.
He added: “Sadly, the cubs are too young to trek over much distance.
“The females must become nomadic and keep running. The cubs only have a five per cent chance of survival. It is a disaster.”
One of the lionesses has been fitted with a Global Positioning System collar by Oxford University’s conservation unit, which had also been monitoring Cecil.
It allows lion experts to track her movements through the African bush.
Cecil The Lion & His Void
Several mighty male lions have been heard roaring at night after entering the park to claim the territory once roamed by Cecil and his hunting partner Jericho.
The cubs have now been abandoned by Jericho, who had initially been seen protecting and playing with them.
As concerns continue to grow that he could become the next prize for trophy hunters, a park source confirmed: “Jericho has now taken over another pride and has been seen with other females.
“He’s unlikely to ever kill the cubs himself, despite roaming the same habitat. He may believe that some are his offspring.”
Although male lions do form coalition groups, the bond between Jericho and 13-year-old Cecil was considered unusual because of their past rivalry. The source added: “They’ve fought each other in the past and Cecil even killed Jericho’s father when he refused to be driven out.
“But despite all that they formed a coalition and became joint leaders of the pride.
“We don’t know if Jericho would return to help the cubs if they were attacked again.”
The July 1 killing of Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, during a hunt by American dentist Walter Palmer sparked worldwide outrage.
Zimbabwe has requested the extradition of Palmer, 55 – who claims he believed the hunt was legal. He shot Cecil with a crossbow after the lion had been lured to killing grounds away from the government-protected park.
Our exclusive pictures show a rare glimpse of the remaining seven cubs this week. They were spotted padding along a sand track with the three lionesses in the park’s North East territory.
The source said: “The cubs are too young at the moment to be named. Nobody expects them to survive to the age of three, which is when researchers normally name them.”
An investigation by the Sunday Mirror has revealed harrowing new details about Cecil’s slaughter – as professional hunt guide Theo Bronkhorst appeared in court over the killing.
Bronkhorst, 52 – charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt – denies any wrongdoing on the expedition with Minnesota-based Palmer.
The dentist paid £35,000 to kill the lion and have his head returned to the states to be mounted as a trophy.
His initial shot was with a compound crossbow, which has a pulley system meant to make it more powerful and accurate. Even so, Palmer failed to kill Cecil outright, and the lion evaded him for a further 40 agonising hours.
Investigators are still trying to locate the GPS collar worn by Cecil – despite recovering his head and body, which have been taken away to an undisclosed storage unit.
Sources say that Dr Palmer, who has since gone into hiding, would have organised the trip at one of the major hunting conventions held annually in the American cities of Reno or Las Vegas.
The £35,000 fee would have included a 14-day stay and the “trophy” fee for killing the lion – which should have been paid to the National Parks Authority in Zimbabwe.
And he would have brought his own weapons and ammunition for the trip.
As well as lions, Palmer hunted cheetahs and elephants – and is said to keep a “hunting shrine” back home in rural Pelican Rapids, US.
He is understood to have at least 50 heads in the gruesome display, including a polar bear, walrus and a wolf.
Sadly, legal experts in Zimbabwe fear it is unlikely anybody will be convicted over Cecil’s illegal death.
A park source said: “The hunters with Palmer lured Cecil over the railway on the park’s boundary by dragging animal guts to create a trail.
“The guts were dragged towards an elevated tree stand around 550 yards away, and they’d have shot him from 15 yards because of the bow’s limited range.
“Still they failed to kill him cleanly and he staggered on for 40 hours. What isn’t known is where the GPS collar is or what has happened to it.
“It’s crucial to uncovering the truth about whether the hunters were hunting under the belief they were legal.”
Zimbabwe runs a quota system on big game hunting, with each area given a set number of kills for each animal.
But the source added: “The quotas are no longer made public and a lot are calculated on figures taken years ago – many as far back as 2001.
“Corrupt hunters kill illegally in one area and then claim it was in another area that has quota available.
“This way they’ve been able to allow a rise in Russian and Chinese hunters arriving to shoot lions and elephants.
“While the Russians are big hunters and carry out the shoot themselves, many Chinese clients hire a gunman to do the killing for them.”
Guides say Palmer’s hunt was at a discounted price – with many costing three times the fee he paid.
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