HARARE (Reuters) - After the killing of Zimbabwe's best known lion, a second animal has been poached by a foreigner, a source said on Saturday as authorities banned big game hunting outside the park from which Cecil was lured to his death.
Reports that a brother of Cecil had been killed on Saturday were untrue, a field researcher said, but the news rekindled the fury of animal lovers that was sparked by American dentist Walter Palmer who admitted hunting down the lion on July 1.
A source at the national parks agency, who is not authorized to speak to the media, said a foreign hunter, whose nationality he did not disclose, killed the second lion illegally on July 3. The hunter had since left Zimbabwe, but police had recovered the lion's head and carcass.
The parks authority did not confirm the incident, but on Saturday it imposed an indefinite ban on hunting outside Zimbabwe's biggest park, from where Cecil had lived before being shot by a cross-bow and then a rifle last month.
"Hunting of lions, leopards and elephant in areas outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect," Edison Chidziya, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general, said in a statement.
He added that a man from a private game park had been arrested on suspicion of breaching hunting rules, but the statement did not mention the death of a second lion.
Cecil's killing raised global awareness of big game hunting, a lucrative tourism draw for some African countries where hunters can pay tens of thousands of pounds to track and kill lions and other large animals.
A new wave of condemnation hit Twitter on Saturday after a group called the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force posted on its Facebook page that Cecil's brother had been killed.
"It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil's brother has been killed at 4pm today. We are absolutely heart broken," the ZCTF posted on Facebook.
When contacted by Reuters, ZCTF head Johnny Rodrigues said: "I cannot speak to you today, please try tomorrow."
A field researcher for the Hwange Lion Research Project which is monitoring Cecil's pride, said data from a GPS tag on Cecil showed he was fine.
"He looks alive and well to me as far as I can tell on his movements. He looks like he has a female," Brent Stapelkamp told Reuters.
Hunting lions is legal in many countries in Africa where supporters say, if properly regulated, it can generate much needed revenue that can be used on conservation. For most Zimbabweans, struggling with unemployment of more than 80 percent, the global furor over Cecil is hard to comprehend.
A Zimbabwean court last week charged a professional hunter with failing to prevent Palmer from unlawfully killing Cecil. The game park owner where the lion was killed is expected to appear in court next week.
Palmer, who had paid guides for the hunt, said he believed the necessary permits had been in order, but Zimbabwe is seeking his extradition from the United States to be tried for poaching.
The head of Zimbabwe's Safari Operators Association, Emmanuel Fundira, said the new hunting restrictions would hit earnings from hunting, which generated $45 million in 2014.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Jon Boyle