Cecil the lion's 6-year-old son was shot and killed by a big-game trophy hunter in western Zimbabwe earlier this month, according to a source familiar with the hunt.
Xanda had been tracked with a fitted GPS satellite collar since 2015, the same year his father was killed. His death on July 7 was first indicated by a lack of movement data from the collar.
The lion, which was in his prime, had roamed outside the bounds of Hwange National Park and into the Ngamo Forest Area -- land that offers little to no protection for the lions, as game hunters are legally able to shoot for sport there if they possess the right permits.
"He was shot two kilometers from the park boundary in the Ngamo Forest," said Dr. Andrew Loveridge, a research fellow and project leader with Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit who had fitted Xanda's GPS collar. "As researchers, we are saddened at the death of a well-known study animal we have monitored since birth," he added.
According to the source familiar with the hunt, the safari was led by a professional hunter whose client was a Spanish national. The source said the hunt was a legal expedition and that the outfitter had been properly registered.
On Friday, Tinashe Farawo, a Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Authority spokesman, confirmed the "unfortunate incident" and said that authorities would be issuing a full statement "soon."
The basic circumstances of how Xanda was killed largely mirrors father Cecil's death just two years ago -- one that prompted outrage among animal rights activists and conservationists worldwide.
In July 2015, 13-year-old Cecil was lured out of the park boundary with food, shot with a crossbow, tracked for 40 more hours, then finished off with a gun, according to authorities. The big cat was skinned and his head reportedly cut off as a trophy.
The killer, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, his professional hunter guide and the owner of the land where the hunt took place were initially accused of an illegal hunt under the country's Parks and Wildlife Act. A decision was made later not to press charges against Palmer.
Condemnation from animal rights groups
Facebook group Lions of Hwange National Park posted that Xanda had been shot by a trophy hunter several days ago.
"We can't believe that now, 2 years since Cecil was killed, that his oldest Cub Xanda has met the same fate," the post read. "When will the Lions of Hwange National Park be left to live out their years as wild born free lions should?"
Masha Kalinina from Humane Society International condemned the shooting and urged Zimbabwe to trophy hunting altogether, citing Botswana and Kenya's conservation efforts.
"The killing of Xanda just goes to show that trophy hunters have learned nothing from the international outcry that followed Cecil's death. They continue at a time when lions face a conservation crisis in Africa, with as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild. Xanda was a well-studied lion like this father and critical to conservation efforts in Zimbabwe," Kalinina said.
African lion populations have fallen almost 60% over the past three decades, with fewer than 30,000 African lions - and possibly as little as 20,000 estimated to remain today, according to Humane Society International.