Cecil's Pride and Joy: The Cubs Will Be Fine, Researcher Says

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By Desmond Kwande and Hasani Gittens

HWANGE, Zimbabwe — Cecil the Lion may be sadly gone, but his offspring will be okay, one of the main researchers who has studied Zimbabwe's big cats for years said Wednesday.

Brent Staplekamp, who works for the Hwange Lion Research Project was the last man to have caught and collared Cecil for study, last November. He was also one of the people who confirmed that Cecil's brother, Jericho, is still alive, despite reports to the contrary last weekend.

Staplekamp told NBC News late Wednesday that Cecil's cubs will be okay. It was previously believed they could become secondary casualties of American hunter Walter Palmer.

Related: Lion-Killing Guide Theo Bronkhorst Says He Had Never Heard of Cecil

"Okay so there is a lot of concern about Cecil's cubs, we've read and we've seen stories about Cecil's cubs and the world is concerned about them," said Staplekamp. "We are less concerned and I think that's because we know the story."

The story, according to Staplekamp, is that while Cecil likely fathered the cubs in his pride, his sibling Jericho has adopted them.

"The way lion society works, those cubs would have bonded with Jericho, so those cubs although they might not be Jericho's specifically, he's bonded with them, he's shared kills with them, he knows the lionesses very well," said Staplekamp. "So he will protect those cubs as though they are his own. They were seen yesterday in the national park: Three lionesses, the seven cubs, alive and healthy."

Cecil the lion (darker mane) fighting/playing with Jericho in May, 2014.Solent News/REX Shutterstock / AP