Confirmed: Jericho the lion is alive

Story highlights

A researcher tracking Jericho and a conservation group confirm that Jericho is alive

An Oxford researcher says movements of lion's GPS collar are normal

The head of a conservation task force earlier said a hunter illegally killed Jericho

CNN  — 

Jericho the lion is alive and roaming his park habitat in Zimbabwe, the Oxford University researcher tracking the lion confirmed on Sunday.

Brent Stapelkamp dismissed reports that the lion had been killed, saying a GPS device on Jericho didn’t suggest anything out of the ordinary. Furthermore, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, which told CNN and other media that poachers killed Jericho, retracted its statements on Sunday.

The head of the conservation task force, Johnny Rodrigues, said in a new statement that the erroneous information was the result of mistaken identity. Rodrigues said that another lion had been killed, something that CNN cannot immediately verify.

As proof of life, Oxford University tweeted a photo of Jericho, taken by Stapelkamp early Sunday morning.

“We apologize for reporting that (Jericho) had died but were confident that our sources were in fact correct,” the conservation task force said in a Facebook post Sunday.

Cecil and Jericho have been referred to as brothers, though David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford, said the lions were not blood relatives.

“They were not related, though their bond was one close to brotherhood,” Macdonald said in a statement. “Male lions often form what are termed co-operative ‘coalitions’ with unrelated males in order to better compete with other males for territories and prides.”

Jericho was considered to be caring for and defending Cecil’s cubs, but the survivability of those cubs seemed imperiled if Jericho had indeed been killed.

Cecil, killed in early July, mated with about six lionesses and had about 24 cubs, Rodrigues has said.

Opinion: Can Zimbabwe have lion’s killer extradited?

CNN’s Hamilton Wende contributed to this report.

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