Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force Apologizes for Story About Jericho the Lion, Says He's 'Alive and Well'

PHOTO: A lion named Jericho is pictured in this photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.PlayWildCRU/Brent Stapelkamp
WATCH Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force Apologizes for Claiming Lion Jericho Has Been Killed

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has apologized after claiming that a lion named Jericho, which they said was the "brother" of Cecil, was shot and killed by a hunter, and now says the lion is "alive and well."

"I would like to sincerely apologise for my last report where I stated that Jericho had been killed," Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said in a statement Sunday. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is not an official government agency.

"I have now discovered that he is alive and well. The cubs are also doing well," Rodrigues said.

The prospect that another lion was killed in the wake of the slaying of the beloved Cecil caused a firestorm. Cecil was killed by an American dentist, Walter Palmer, in early July and Zimbabwe is looking to extradite him for allegedly violating the country's Parks and Wildlife Act, according to the Associated Press. Palmer has maintained that the hunt was legal.

Rodrigues said that the story began with a phone call from a journalist who told him that Jericho had been killed.

"I was completely devastated by this news and I tried to confirm it," he wrote in the statement.

After trying the research center in Hwange, "I eventually got through to one of the wardens in Hwange who confirmed to me that Jericho had been killed," he wrote. "A couple of other people also confirmed the story."

But the story proved to be false.

"I don't know why I was given this story and I feel very embarrassed about it," he wrote. "Bear in mind, I live 900km away from Hwange so I couldn't go and check for myself so I had to trust the people on the ground."

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the government authority on wildlife in Zimbabwe, said Sunday that Jericho is living and being monitored by Brent Stapelkamp of the Lion Research Project. It released a photo of Jericho as of 7:06 a.m. on Sunday feeding with the pride.

The authority also clarified that Jericho is a ‘coalition’ partner to Cecil -- unrelated males who team up to defend their territory -- not a blood-related sibling, after the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force described Jericho as Cecil's "brother."

Oxford University Department of Zoology/WildCRU, whose study lion was Cecil, also said that Jericho is alive and well. The department also mentioned that both Jericho and Cecil are not brothers.

On Saturday, Rodrigues told ABC News Jericho was shot and killed Saturday at Hwange National Park.

"It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil's brother has been killed at 4pm today," the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in a Facebook post. "We are absolutely heart broken."

Rodrigues told ABC News Jericho was shot by a hunter and died at 4 p.m. local time, just a half hour after the park put out a statement at 3:30 p.m. announcing a ban on hunting all lions, leopards and elephants.

"The park released the statement at about 3:30, and not even half an hour later I got a phone call that Jericho was killed," Rodrigues said in the statement.

According to releases on the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force website, this isn't the first time the group has corrected an initial statement.   On July 28, the group wrote that the hunter who shot Cecil "is American and not Spanish as we previously stated."

Also that day, the group apologized for releasing the wrong name of the owner of the concession where Cecil was killed.