The hunters who shot the son of Cecil the Lion have been accused of lying about the kill by wildlife researchers from Oxford University.
Xanda (pictured above), aged six, Cecil’s oldest cub, was shot just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by a paying client on a legal hunt.
But Oxford University’s Wildlife Research Conservation Unit, which had fitted Xanda with a radio tracking collar, has disputed the hunters’ account of the shooting.
The university said the hunters’ claim that Xanda was a lone male who had left his pride and was therefore less likely to breed was false.
They insisted Xanda had no dependent cubs and had moved from the park – where hunting is banned – into a forest reserve where hunters are permitted to shoot one male lion a year.
But Oxford University has disputed this version of events, and accused the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association of misrepresenting its research team’s information, The Times reported.
One of the university’s researchers, Andrew Loveridge, said that Xanda was part of a pride with seven cubs.
In a letter to the hunting association’s chairman, James Rosenfels, Mr Loveridge wrote: ‘These cubs are too young to survive on their own and will certainly be vulnerable to infanticide.’
When a male lion takes over a pride of females, they often kill their rival’s cubs.
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Although acknowledging that the hunt was legal, Mr Loveridge said he had warned professional hunter Richard Cooke that shooting Xanda ‘would be detrimental to the population’.
It emerged last week that Xanda had been killed, two years after the death of his father, Cecil, who was shot dead in a similar area in controversial circumstances with a bow and arrow by US dentist Walter Palmer and took 40 hours to die.
In the immediate aftermath of Xanda’s death, Mr Loveridge had said Mr Cooke was an ethical hunter and ‘one of the good guys’ because he handed the lion’s collar back to researchers.
However, Mr Loveridge has appeared to have had a change of mind, and accused the hunting party of lying about the lion’s death.
‘Ethics is about not just adhering to the letter of the law, but also making informed ethical choices to limit the detrimental impacts of hunting activities,’ he said.
‘There is no question that Mr Cooke was fully aware that this animal was a pride male. He was a territorial male in a pride of three females with at least seven dependent cubs of between one and one and a half years old.’
However, he acknowledged that the hunters had contacted the research unit at Oxford University to make checks before shooting Xanda.
On its Facebook page, the Lions of Hwange National Park group wrote: ‘Xanda is still a young father at 6.2 years old and has several young cubs. We can’t believe that now, two years since Cecil was killed, that his oldest cub Xanda has met the same fate.’
(Main picture: Bert du Plessis)