In the wake of Cecil the Lion brutal killing last month and his murder receiving condemnation from around the world, it was initially reported that Cecil’s brother Jericho was also killed by a hunter August 1, according to an announcement issued by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task force. Like something ripped from the Disney animated film, The Lion King, this potential tragedy had Cecil’s line of succession in potential danger — this time, not at the hands of humans, but by fellow lions.
Cecil, the celebrated and beloved Zimbabwean cultural figure was killed, skinned and beheaded in July by the 55-year-old Minnesota hunter and dentist Walter Palmer on a pre-arranged hunting expedition. He allegedly paid $50,000 to target and hunt Cecil, whose body was discovered a few days after its death.
While no formal charges have been filed (at this time, as the investigation is still ongoing), the killing is said by authorities to be illegal. Seeking justice, the sovereign state of Zimbabwe is hoping to extradite Palmer, according to the country’s environmental minister Oppah Muchinguri.
Currently, the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with the African nation, but if the Wildlife service finds evidence of wrongdoing, it will pass its findings to the Department of Justice and potentially try him in the USA.
Heir To The Throne
With the possibility of the uncle of Cecil’s six cubs (males and females) being shot by a poacher, there was heightened fear that the laws of the animal kingdom would become tragically self-evident. The natural law in lion society is that when a Alpha male dies, his weakened line of succession is usurped. This allows for incoming males to take control and in so doing kill their predecessor's cubs.
The scientific term for this law of nature is called, the ‘perturbation effect.’
Wildlife Conservation Unit of Oxford University director, David Macdonald and his colleagues published a research thesis, titled “Socio-spatial behavior of an African lion population following perturbation by sport hunting.”
In the report, the researchers noted: “Lions are social felids (genus name for large cats) which display high levels of co-operation and antagonism. Competition between groups is frequently aggressive, and aggression is often precipitated by male take-over or territorial defense.”
“They occupy territories that are inherited by daughters from mothers, while males compete for succession,” WildCRU asserts. “It is generally accepted that male and female lions differ in the resources that are most important to them. Females are influenced by food dispersion patterns, males by access to female lions.”
Whatever happens in the aftermath of Cecil’s killing, WildCRU will be studying it with the hopes of gleaning some good out of this tragedy.
Happy Ending . . .
As history buffs, I’m sure we all remember that not too long ago, monarchial human rulers handled succession similarly to the animal kingdom. But as centuries past, the customs practiced by despots such as King Henry VIII were fortunately replaced by a more evolved democratic model of succession.
As far as the fate of Jericho, new stories from various media outlets around the world were initially conflicted. While many erroneously reported he had been killed by poachers, a researcher monitoring Cecil's pride confirmed to Reuters that Cecil’s brother was alive and well. And in stark contrast to Uncle Scar's devious tactics in Disney’s The Lion King, Uncle Jericho appears to have become his brother’s keeper, in assuming the parental role and care of Cecil’s cubs.
To this outcome we say AMEN, and may Uncle Jericho and his nephews and nieces live long and happy lives, devoid of any further corporeal threats.
And for those who would like to donate to welfare of family of Cecil the Lion, please visit the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and find out how you can help here.