BULAWAYO – In July 2015 the death of Cecil the Lion sparked intense public interest across the globe.
While many only came to know of the now famous lion after its death, this did not stop its demise from making local and international headlines with animal conservationists keeping a close eye.
Cecil was killed by a Minneapolis-area dentist, Walter Palmer, who allegedly paid $50 000 for the chance to kill the 12-year-old lion on a hunting expedition to Zimbabwe.
The killing provoked international outrage over big-game hunting and protests outside Palmer’s office that forced him to shut his dental practice for several weeks.
Professional Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst and wildlife tracker Cornelius Ncube helped Palmer on his expedition.
Cecil was a well-known attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park and was wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project.
While Cecil might be now history, it is his pride and legacy that continues to live.
In the latest update as noted by the Friends of Hwange Trust, life still goes on for his pride.
“Cecil’s pride is comprised of three lionesses and seven of his offspring of which five are females and two are males.
“The pride has been under the protection of a mature male, known as Bhubezi since about a year after Cecil’s demise,” the Trust noted in one of its publications.
“At 11 years old, Bhubezi is getting on in years and early in 2018 was displaced from the pride by two new males on the block. The pair, known as Humba and Netsayi, are cohort brothers — they share the same father, but have different mothers.”
The Trust further noted that the coming in of Humba and Netsayi has caused much disruption within Cecil’s pride.
This saw two mature lionesses — Cecil’s girls — all that had cubs to Bhubezi at the time, take off immediately in an effort to save their cubs.
The Trust added: “We saw them at Broken Rifle pan on the Wilderness concession, not too far from the rest of the pride, with three older cubs and two little ones.
“All were in great condition with bright, inquisitive eyes and full barrel-bellies. Not much beats the sight of mischievous lion cubs boisterously playing, chewing, rolling, stalking and pouncing — honing vital skills.
“The third lioness, a collared female known as Sisi, lost her cubs, but has already mated with the newcomers.”
However, interestingly, Cecil’s two young male cubs who were immediately driven out of the pride to avoid any competition are almost four years old now and have reportedly tried — and managed — to stay under Bhubezi’s radar for too long.
“They haven’t joined anyone else yet and are sometimes still seen with their mums, sometimes near Bhubezi and have even been seen with the young Somadada Boy, the only remaining male cub from Jericho’s final litter,” the organisation observed.
Cecil’s five female off-springs have on the other hand engaged in an orgy of familiarisation and mating with Humba and Netsayi, as is usual at the takeover of a pride.
According to the Trust, it is clear that with Cecil now history “there is no doubt that this will herald the start of another era of lions.”