“Trophy hunting is no sport. It is merely a disguise for killing to massage an ego.” (Will Travers, President, Born Free)
Are you ready for yet another report of an illegal lion hunt in Zimbabwe, by yet another ego-pumped physician? As with Cecil, who is even more famous now than he was in life, this second incident underscores the demand by many to stop or at least severely limit the slaughter of these magnificent animals, as seen in yet another barrage of worldwide condemnation.
In the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania suburb of Murrysville, Doctor Jan C Seski, a cancer specialist, is now under investigation in connection with an illegal lion killing last April outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe – the same sanctuary where Cecil lived for 13 years. According to investigators, Seski, age 68, has killed big-game all over the world for years.
The most accurate reports on this case say Seski – as Doctor Walter Palmer, the dentist from Minnesota – also used a bow and arrow to kill a lion on private land near the Zimbabwe national sanctuary.
According to The Chronicle, a Zimbabwean major daily newspaper, officials there are not yet certain whether Zimbabwean law enforcement have questioned the doctor or whether he knew that killing this lion was illegal.
Under Zimbabwean law, some landowners are allowed to conduct lion hunts with certain limitations, but the landowner involved in Seski’s case, a man named Headman Sibanda, did not have proper authority.
Sibanda is being charged with “breaching hunting regulations in that he hunted without a quota and permit. He operated a company called Nyala Safaris which conducted this particular hunt,” according to the Zimbabwe National Parks Wildlife Management Authority.
A recording at Seski’s medical offices on Fifth Avenue said the practice was closed, and neither he nor his partner in the practice, Ekaterina Yatsuba, are answering the phone.
The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority reports that Sibanda had no permit to hunt lions on any land; that the law requires foreign hunters to be accompanied by an authorized, local hunter. No local hunter involved in Doctor Seski’s case has yet been identified.
The case of Doctor Walter Palmer involved a world-famous lion known as Cecil, which was killed in July. In that case, Palmer and his co-hunters used animal bait to lure Cecil from protected lands onto private property near the sanctuary. That is where the doctor shot Cecil with a bow and arrow. The lion limped away bleeding and was then tracked for another two days, before Palmer shot the animal to death.
Zimbabwean authorities state that the landowner in that case also did not have legal permission for lion hunting. Palmer paid a professional hunter based in Zimbabwe, Theo Bronkhorst, $55,000 for the hunt. Bronkhorst faces prison for failing to prevent an illegal hunt, and authorities may seek extradition of Palmer to court in Zimbabwe.
The United States does hold an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe. Extradition requests are normally submitted by the embassy of the country making the request to the Department of State, which reviews and forwards them to the Criminal Division Office of International Affairs.
Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney, states he believes extradition is a possibility in the case of Doctor Palmer, where probable cause that a crime was committed appears certain.
“This is neither a trumped-up nor a trivial crime. It’s one that implicates the sovereign interests of Zimbabwe, and U.S. authorities will want American sovereign interests to be weighed in the balance when the shoe is on the other foot. That’s what extradition treaties are all about,” Litman said. “If I was the doctor, I’d be worried. If I was his friend, I’d tell him to get a good lawyer with state department experience.”
In response to the killings, the government of Zimbabwe announced that the “hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in areas outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended.”
According to the Born Free Foundation, more than 500 lions are killed every year in Africa by “trophy hunters” and most of the hunters are from the U.S.
The number of lions in Africa has decreased by half since 1980.Born Free has petitioned U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the African lion as endangered, but they have not. They have asked the U.S. government and the European Union to help end the import of lion trophies into their countries.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is introducing a bill entitled “Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies,” which would extend prohibitions on importing trophies from animals killed abroad.
The Humane Society is asking major airlines to follow the lead of Delta, which announced a ban on transporting “trophies of the Big Five” – buffalo, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards and lions.
“Trophy hunting is no sport. It is merely a disguise for killing to massage an ego,” says Will Travers, president of Born Free. His parents, Bill Travers and Virginia McKeena, starred in the 1966 movie “Born Free”, quit their acting careers and became instrumental in the founding of the Born Free conservation organizations.