Will Cecil’s Cubs Survive His Death?

Jessica Renae Buxbaum
Cecil, the world’s most beloved lion, was shot dead, beheaded and skinned, but the bloodshed isn’t over. Now Cecil’s cubs might be killed too.

Cecil the lion, Cecil loin news


Researchers at Oxford University have clarified mistaken reports that Cecil's brother has been killed by an illegal hunter, tweeting a photo of Cecil's companion, Jericho, alive and well. He has been protecting Cecil's cubs from dominant lions. 

Despite fears that Cecil's cubs could be killed by a rival lion, Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCRU) scientists have reassured the public that for now that Cecil's young are safe. 

"As you probably know, the natural law in lion society is that when a male dies and his weakened coalition is usurped, the new incoming males kill their predecessors’ cubs. This may not happen because Cecil’s brother is still holding the fort,” said project leader David Macdonald.

Scientists who have studied the lions in Cecil’s region of Zimbabwe have expressed concern that the lion king death’s will rock the social stability of the pride, likely resulting in the killing of a dozen cubs.

 “In brief, we have found that when a male lion is killed, because of the way their society works, a likely consequence is the overthrow and death of other adult male members of his weakened coalition (normally of brothers), and the subsequent infanticide of his cubs by the incoming new coalition of males,”  WildCRU wrote in a statement.

Known as the perturbation effect, this aggressive, territorial male take-over and  infanticide is a typical outcome in the sport hunting of lions.

WildCRU scientists have witnessed the gruesome chain reaction of 24 other circumstances in which lions were killed by trophy hunters, and have painted two violently tragic endings for the pride.

Either Cecil’s companion , Jericho, who the famed lion formed a coalition with, will take over, kill Cecil’s cubs and mate with the lionesses to form his own bloodline. Or, Jericho will be killed by another coalition that Cecil and him controlled  ending again in the newly dominant lions killing Cecil’s progeny.

Walter Palmer with Cecil the lion

The bloodthirsty ripple that results from Cecil’s death is yet another reason as to why poaching is so carelessly harmful and disastrously wrong — not just for ethical reasons but environmentally as well. An entire pride is wiped out because one man wanted a picture with a dead lion. 

Read more: Why Don’t We Care About Black Lives As Much As We Do About Lions?