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Jan Seski: Second American Accused of Illegal Lion Kill in Zimbabwe

Image: Jan Seski: Second American Accused of Illegal Lion Kill in Zimbabwe
An Abyssinian lion, which was rescued from captivity at an early age, is pictured on February 18, 2015 in the Ethiopian chapter of Born Free, which houses six Ethiopian lions that have been rescued from captivity from various locations around the country. (ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 03 Aug 2015 01:45 PM

Jan Seski, an American doctor accused of illegally poaching a lion in Zimbabwe this past April, had all the paperwork in order to make the hunt legal, landowner Headman Sibanda said Monday.

Sibanda said his client acted in "good faith" when he made the bow-and-arrow kill, The Associated Press reported. Sibanda says the relevant paperwork was in place for Seski's hunt, and that it was legal.

According to an earlier report from The Associated Press, Zimbabwe has accused the Pennsylvania doctor of illegally killing a lion in April, as it seeks to extradite a Minnesota dentist who killed a well-known lion named Cecil in July.

Jan Casimir Seski of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, shot the lion with a bow and arrow near Hwange National Park, without approval and on land where it was not allowed, said Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Landowner Headman Sibanda was arrested and is assisting police, it said.

Seski, a gynecological oncologist who directs the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, is a big-game hunter according to safari outfitters and bow-hunting sites. Kill shots on the sites identify "Dr. Jan Seski" as the man standing next to slain animals including elephants, a hippo, an ostrich and antelopes such as an impala, a kudu, and a nyala.

Seski did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press at his home and with an answering service for his medical practice. The AP also called and knocked on the door at Seski's house, which is set back among some woods outside Pittsburgh.

Zimbabwe's wildlife authority has suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the Hwange area, and said Saturday that bow and arrow hunts can be approved only by the head of the wildlife authority.

Two other illegal lion hunts also were recorded last year in Zimbabwe, said Geoffrey Matipano, conservation director for the wildlife authority. He did not provide details on those cases.

Zimbabwe National Parks spokeswoman Caroline Washaya Moyo said Seski provided his name and other identifying information for a government database when he came for the hunt.

"When hunters come into the country they fill a document stating their personal details, the amount they have paid for the hunt, the number of animals to be hunted, the species to be hunted and the area and period where that hunt is supposed to take place," she said. "The American conducted his hunt in an area where lion hunting is outlawed. The landowner who helped him with the hunt also did not have a have a quota for lion hunting."

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean authorities have said they will seek the extradition of Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer, alleging he lacked authorization to kill "Cecil." The lion was lured out of Hwange park, wounded with a bow and arrow and then tracked down and shot, conservationists said.

Palmer said he relied on professional guides to ensure his hunt was legal. Two Zimbabwean citizens were arrested and face charges.

An image on the Melorani Safaris Facebook page, since taken down, showed Seski posing with the body of a small antelope in 2012, with a caption saying it was killed two days after he shot it with an arrow. Other captions described how his arrows penetrated organs and split bones.

"This Zimbabwe elephant is the sixth African elephant shot by Dr. Jan Seski," Alaska Bowhunting Supply claims in a caption dated September 2014, below a picture of the doctor posing above the dead beast's trunk and tusks.

"The arrow was shot quartering into the elephant, penetrated a rib and one lung, lacerated the heart and liver, and was recovered in the gut. The elephant went a short distance and died. With results like this, no wonder Jan is a firm supporter of our Ultra-Magnum Arrow System."

Alaska Bowhunting Supply didn't immediately respond Sunday to a request for comment, and it wasn't clear how the hunting supply company learned such details about the hunt.

Images of the doctor wearing camouflage and holding high-powered bows match those on Seski's website, where he wears a suit or hospital scrubs. His address and other identifying information given by authorities in Zimbabwe matches those of U.S. medical authorities.

A handful of Seski's neighbors said he mostly keeps to himself and that he'd been buying up the land around his property. Ernest Hahn said Seski put up no-trespassing signs, breaking the rural area's tradition of people feeling free to cross property lines to hunt.

Hahn said Seski can be "quirky," walking around wearing a low-slung pistol "like a gunslinger," for example, but he appreciates that his neighbor is protecting land from development.

"It seemed to me everything he does is aboveboard," Hahn said. "I've never seen him done anything illegal or unsportsmanlike at all."

Seski seemed like a "perfect gentleman" to Stewart Dorrington, who operates Melorani Safaris and owns a game reserve in neighboring South Africa where Seski hunted in 2012.

"He was a great guy," Dorrington said. "Everything he did was perfectly legal and aboveboard and a great help to our conservation efforts."

Dorrington said he converted his cattle ranch into a game reserve in the 1980s. He said funds from trophy hunting of antelope are essential to conserving wildlife.

Dorrington said he received an abusive phone call Sunday; his Facebook page was later closed from view after people began posting threatening comments.

In Washington, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., announced the "Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act," which would expand import bans to species proposed for listing as threatened or endangered, as well as those already listed as endangered.

"The logic is that if you keep killing them, they will become endangered," Menendez spokesman Steven Sandberg said Sunday.

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Jan Seski, an American doctor accused of illegally poaching a lion in Zimbabwe this past April, had all the paperwork in order to make the hunt legal, landowner Headman Sibanda said Monday.
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Monday, 03 Aug 2015 01:45 PM
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