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New Children's Book Shows Cecil The Lion's Family Photos

Nearly a year after Cecil the lion was illegally killed, he's getting new life - in a children's book.

Cecil drinking | Brent Stapelkamp

"Cecil's Pride: The True Story of a Lion King" was written by Craig Hatkoff and his two daughters, Juliana and Isabella. While the barrage of coverage Cecil received last summer focused on his death, Hatkoff told The Dodo he was more interested in what came before it.

Cecil resting with his cubs | Brent Stapelkamp

"Cecil's death was a very dark moment that tapped into a zeitgeist of anger about our endangered species, and indeed our planet as a whole," Hatkoff said. "The whole world knew how Cecil died; we wanted to tell the story about how Cecil lived."

Cecil's cub chilling out | Brent Stapelkamp

In order to do that, Hatkoff reached out to the people who studied Cecil's pride at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

Cecil | Brent Stapelkamp

"We found Cecil's 'biographer,' researcher Brent Stapelkamp, who kept watch over Cecil for nine years," Hatkoff explained. "Brent had also taken stunning photographs of Cecil that we were able to use throughout the book."

The images illustrate the complexities of the relationships between the lions in the pride.

cub yawning | Brent Stapelkamp

One relationship that stood out was that of Cecil and Jericho, an unrelated male who eventually became the coleader of Cecil's pride. Instead of fighting each other for the seat as the dominant male, the lions decided to work together - a dynamic that persisted even after Cecil's death.

Jericho standing over Cecil | Brent Stapelkamp

"There was a big concern by researchers that, after Cecil's death, Jericho would likely kill or abandon Cecil's cubs," Hatkoff said. "Instead Jericho has been raising them as his own for the past nine months. It was like the 'Lion King' story except Scar, Simba's evil uncle, turns out to be the good guy and saves the day."

Jericho and a playful cub | Brent Stapelkamp

"We thought that was a pretty epic story," he added.

Cecil and a lioness | Brent Stapelkamp

While Cecil's death overshadowed his life in some ways, hopefully this book will bring to light a happier side of the story that many people still don't know about. And if a new generation hears the story of a true "Lion King," it might inspire them to do their part in protecting these magnificent animals.