One of Cecil the Lion’s cubs has been killed by a male lion who was trying to mate with his mother.
“One of the eight cubs was killed by a male lion after Cecil was killed,” a Zimbabwe park source told Mirror. “Lions [practice] 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.”
Cecil the Lion, one of the most famous animals in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, was killed last month by American dentist Dr. Walter Palmer during a bow-hunting trip, Opposing Views reported. The lion’s murder sparked outrage as it was reported Cecil was lured out of the national park — where it is illegal to hunt wildlife — and then shot with a bow and arrow by Palmer.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority deemed the killing illegal and held Palmer and the landowner responsible. Two Zimbabwean men associated with the killing have been accused of poaching.
Cecil’s death has left his pride, consisting of three lionesses and now seven cubs, without a leader to protect them.
The remaining cubs have been hiding behind the Kennedy Two water pan since leaving their den at Ngweshla. The source says they need to keep moving or they may die as there are several solitary male lions stalking their abandoned den.
“Sadly, the cubs are too young to trek over much distance,” the source added. “The females must become nomadic and keep running. The cubs only have a five per cent chance of survival. It is a disaster.”
It is the natural law in lions for a new male of a pride to kill its former leader's cubs, according to David Macdonald, research project leader at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit, who was studying Cecil before his death.
Macdonald had said earlier this week that Cecil’s death may lead to “a cascade of other deaths,” The Daily Mail reports.
The Oxford University group fitted one of the lionesses with a Global Positioning System collar so they are able to track her movements.
There was hope following Cecil’s death that his brother Jericho would take his place and lead the pride. His protection of them did not last long as he has since left the cubs and their mothers and taken over a different pride.
The last sighting of the remaining seven cubs was earlier this week as they padded along a sand track with the three lionesses in the park’s northeast territory.