Cecil the lion probably never knew how beloved he was. The Zimbabwean lion, who was killed on a hunt in early July, was a popular attraction among visitors to Hwange National Park thanks to his status in some studies run by Oxford University scientists. Now, he\'s world-famous -- and the men accused of killing him are being taken to task. Cecil isn\'t the first animal to become a cause celebre for just being himself.
Jumbo the elephant was among the most famous beasts of the 19th century, so popular that his name became synonymous with bigness. After being captured in India and spending a few years in Europe, the elephant was purchased by P.T. Barnum and became the centerpiece of Barnum\'s circus. He died in a train accident in 1885. "Long after his life was extinct," The New York Times reported, "his keeper, who brought him from the Zoological Gardens in London, laid on his body and wept."
Silverback gorilla Willie B. helped spark change at Atlanta\'s zoo in the 1980s. At the zoo\'s nadir, Willie B. lived in a cramped cage with just a television. Thanks to poor conditions like Willie B.\'s, the zoo\'s accreditation was revoked. But new director Terry Maple made major changes -- including a habitat for Willie B. -- and Zoo Atlanta was turned around. Willie B. died in 2000.
Knut the polar bear was a star at the Berlin Zoo despite a rough start in life. As a cub, he was abandoned by his mother, but a zookeeper hand-raised him to adulthood. His death of encephalitis in 2011, when he was 4, shocked fans. "Knut was something very special," said a zoo board member.
It\'s not often that an octopus becomes widely admired, but when you can pick World Cup winners, you can write your own ticket. Paul the octopus, a resident of the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, correctly predicted the winner of every German match in the 2010 World Cup -- and then nailed the final, too. He died of natural causes a few months later.
When she was 12, Koko the gorilla -- who is able to use sign language -- wanted a pet. She got a stuffed animal. That wasn\'t satisfactory, so for her 13th birthday in 1984, she got a kitten, which she named All Ball. When the kitten died six months later, Koko expressed great sadness at her loss. She got two more kittens in 1985. Since the second one, Smoky, died in 2005, she\'s been getting cat visits from the Humane Society at her home at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California.
SeaWorld\'s Shamu, the first orca to survive for more than a year in captivity, became a celebrated attraction at the San Diego park -- so much so that other orcas have been named Shamu. The orcas\' life has not been without controversy; one named Tilikum killed a trainer in 2010, an event examined in the CNN documentary "Blackfish."
Tama, a Japanese cat, became celebrated as the friendly stationmaster of the Kishi rail station in Kinokawa -- part of a railway line that she helped save from shutting down, thanks to her popularity, which brought in millions of dollars. Tama died June 22. She was 16. Her funeral was attended by 3,000 people.
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
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.
BREAKING #Jericho alive and well! Pic taken by @brentstapelkamp 06.15 this morning http://t.co/DgDO80m5uv #WildCRU pic.twitter.com/ygXfZTKFEq
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) August 2, 2015
[Previous story, published at 6:33 p.m. ET Saturday]
Conflicting reports emerged on whether Jericho, the brother of slain Cecil the lion, was also killed Saturday in an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe.
Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told CNN that a hunter illegally gunned down Jericho in Hwange National Park.
The task force also reported on its Facebook page that Jericho was killed at 4 p.m. local time.
Later, however, an Oxford University researcher tracking Jericho told CNN that the lion was alive and moving as of 8 p.m. local time Saturday, based on the GPS data from the animal\'s collar.
Cecil the lion backlash: Where is dentist Walter Palmer?
The GPS device didn\'t suggest that Jericho was killed or that anything was out of the ordinary, said Brent Stapelkamp, a field researcher who is part of a team tracking Jericho in Zimbabwe.
"We are seeking to clarify conflicting reports," an Oxford representative said.
Other government officials weren\'t immediately available for comment.
At a minimum, the conflict over Jericho added to the angst in the wake of Cecil\'s killing, which provoked an international outrage because he was a protected animal. Zimbabwe is seeking the extradition of American dentist Walter Palmer on accusations that he and others illegally hunted the lion, authorities said.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force was emphatic on its Facebook page when it declared Jericho dead.
"It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil\'s brother has been killed at 4pm today," the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said.
"We are absolutely heart broken," the Task Force added on the Facebook posting.
#WalterPalmer: From hunter to hunted -- Internet seeks revenge for Cecil the lion
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.
Some of the cubs may have been Jericho\'s, said David Macdonald, director of Oxford\'s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, who has been studying Cecil.
Male coalitions, often between brothers, oversee prides of females in lion society and protect them from threats posed by outsider male lions, the scientist said.
Kimmel chokes up on air over Cecil the lion, likens hunter to Bill Cosby
But if Jericho were killed, the cubs\' chance for survival "is probably gone," said Dave Salmoni, an apex predator expert for Animal Planet.
Jericho\'s death would seal "the fate of these cubs, for sure," Salmoni told CNN.
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 and David McKenzie contributed to this report.
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