The son of Cecil the lion, the beloved animal whose death in 2015 sparked outrage against big game trophy hunters, has been shot as well. The shooting was reported by a professional hunting guide after he saw the lion's tracking collar on the lion's body.
Xanda, the 6-year-old son of Cecil, was shot and killed in the Ngamo Forest in mid-June, about one mile outside of the boundaries of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The exact date of his death has not yet been confirmed.
Xanda was first reported dead by professional hunter Richard Cooke, who runs the hunting business RC Safaris. He notified researchers at Oxford University, who had been following Xanda since July 2015. Cooke has not yet commented on the issue.
Andrew Loveridge, a researcher at Oxford's Department of Zoology, noted that there was no foul play involved in the lion's shooting.
"Richard Cooke is one of the 'good' guys," Loveridge said. "He is ethical and he returned the collar and communicated what had happened. His hunt was legal and Xanda was over 6 years old so it is all within the stipulated regulations."
Luke Hunter, the president and lead conservation officer of the big cat organization Panthera, told The Washington Post that lions older than 6 years old can be legally shot in Zimbabwe. By that age, they have already been alive enough years to father cubs.
According to Loveridge, Xanda was the pride male of a pride of three lionesses and seven cubs.
Hunter explained that when adult male lions die or are killed, other males in the area will take over the pride and establish themselves as the pride male. The new males will kill all cubs sired by the previous male and establish their own family with the females. For the already dwindling lion population, the death of cubs could reduce future population growth.
Despite harsh criticism from animal rights activists and some conservationists, revenue from professional hunters accounts for 70 percent of wildlife protection funding in Zimbabwe, The Telegraph reports.
Public perception of big game hunting became increasingly negative in the U.S. after Cecil the lion was killed by American dentist Walter Palmer in 2015. Palmer reportedly paid $65,000 to shoot and kill the lion with a bow and arrow.
Palmer received such harsh backlash following the shooting that he had to temporarily close his dental practice, which had been surrounded by stuffed lions. Following the controversy, several airlines, including Delta Airlines, issued policy to refuse to transport game trophies.
According to a July 20 post from Facebook group Lions of Hwange National Park, Xanda was Cecil's eldest son.
The Australian reports that Cecil was lured out of park boundaries into legal hunting ground by dragging a dead animal on the back of a car. Unlike his father, it does not appear that Xanda was lured. Researchers had noted that he had already been spending a lot of time outside the park.
Cecil the lion was not the first lion to die in 2015. The Facebook group also claimed that Xanda's brother was killed that same year at the age of 4.
Researchers believe Cecil's death resonated particularly strongly with the public due to his distinctive dark mane, English-sounding name, and the fact that he was killed by a wealthy American man, according to The Washington Post.
On July 21, the Facebook group released a post specifying the name of the man who may have shot Xanda:
Here with the details of Xanda's killer; Ngamo Forestry area adjacent to Hwange Nat Park.
Name of client is Carlos Aleverez Mallo from Spain. The Professional Hunter was Richard Cooke. It was a legally registered hunt but then so was Cecil's. We have been robbed of approximately 7 years of photographing this magnificent lion. As Cecil's son, can you imagine what he'd look like at Cecil's age of 13?
As of noon on July 21, Hwange National Park has not commented on the death of the lion or the person who shot him.