Photo proof: Jericho – Cecil the lion's friend – is alive, researchers confirm

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Jericho, a friend of Cecil the lion, is alive.

Researchers with Oxford University who are tracking the lion confirmed this to CNN, and on Sunday morning WildCRU – the program involved with researching lions in Zimbabwe – set out to prove that Jericho is alive, a WildCRU news release says.

"Jericho was seen alive and well at 6:15 a.m. He has been feeding on a giraffe kill with the lionesses from his pride," the release says.

Reports of Jericho's death began spreading across the Internet Saturday after the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said poachers had killed him illegally in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

The conservation group retracted that statement Sunday, saying on its Facebook page that "Jericho is in fact alive and well and has adopted Cecil's cubs," calling its previous report a case of "mistaken identity."

The group did say that another lion was shot and killed by poachers, but that has not been confirmed.

Finding a lion – even with tracking equipment – is not an easy thing to do, WildCRU says, but researcher Brent Stapelkamp was able to snap a photo of Jericho, and Oxford University tweeted the image Sunday to dispel any rumors about the 11-year-old lion's killing.

Jericho had been called Cecil's brother, and WildCRU also clarified the lions' relationship saying they weren't actually brothers, but "their bond was one close to brotherhood."

"Male lions often form what are termed cooperative 'coalitions' with unrelated males in order to better compete with other males for territories and prides. In fact, 42 percent of male lion coalitions are genetically unrelated, though larger coalitions tend to be brothers or half-brothers."

Cecil’s death

News of Jericho's death came less than a week after news broke that Bloomington, Minnesota, dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil, a well-known lion in Zimbabwe.

Cecil's death prompted international outrage and an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Zimbabwe officials have also said they are seeking to extradite Palmer.

The Mail Online reported Friday that Jericho had been keeping rival males away from Cecil’s cubs. Lion cubs are generally killed following the death of their father by rival males taking control of the pride, conservationists have said, and Jericho’s death would have put the cubs at serious risk.

Cecil, like Jericho, was collared as part of a study by WildCRU at the time of his death. The lion was lured out of the park onto private land to be killed, reports have said.

Palmer, owner of River Bluffs Dental in Bloomington, has claimed responsibility for Cecil's killing, saying he "deeply regrets" his actions, but thought everything about the hunt was legal.

Zimbabwe officials are also seeking a second American over the illegal killing of a lion in the wake of the outrage over Cecil's killing, the BBC reports.

The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said Sunday that a Pennsylvania man killed a lion in April, and the landowner in that case has been arrested. the BBC notes. Officials gave little information about this incident, but did say the killing took place without a permit.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, spoke to WCCO Sunday about Cecil's death and the report that another lion was also illegally killed by an American. She said that the international community, and the U.S., need to "step up and be a partner to make this kind of illegal hunting come to an end."

McCollum has called for a federal investigation in Palmer's involvement in Cecil's killing.

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