The wildlife authority said Seski killed the animal — without approval — with a bow and arrow on land where it was not allowed, near Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, according to the Associated Press.
Headman Sibanda, a Zimbabwean landowner who runs Nyala Safaris, was arrested and is assisting police with their investigation, according to a statement posted on the authority’s Web site.
Sibanda is accused of “breaching hunting regulations in that he hunted without a quota and permit at his Railway Farm 31 and is also the owner of Nyala Safaris which conducted the hunt,” the statement said. The parks authority’s statement identified Seski as Sibanda’s client and published his home address in Murrysville, about 17 miles east of Pittsburgh; but it did not indicate that Seski has been charged with any crimes.
In a telephone interview with the AP on Monday, Sibanda refuted the parks authority’s claims, telling a reporter that he has not been arrested and the proper paperwork was in place for hunting a lion.
Sibanda also defended Seski and said that he did not break any laws.
“He conducted his hunt in good faith and now he is being treated as if he is some criminal,” Sibanda said. “He is an honest man who came into this country to give us business. He doesn’t deserve all this attention and harassment. He should be allowed to have a good night’s sleep because his conscience should be clear. Everything was done aboveboard.”
Caroline Washaya Moyo, a spokeswoman for the wildlife authority, told the AP that although Seski added his name to a government database when he arrived in Zimbabwe, he was not granted permission to hunt lion.
“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 quota for lion hunting.”
Seski could immediately not be reached for comment.
The Associated Press reported that it “called and knocked on the door at Seski’s home, which is set back among some woods outside Pittsburgh. The AP also left a message with an answering service for his medical practice, with no immediate response.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also reported that their efforts to reach Seski were unsuccessful. The Tribune-Review added that “police asked reporters to leave as they approached his gated driveway.”
News of Seski’s allegedly illegal hunt came shortly after reports circulated that Jericho, the alleged brother of Cecil the lion, was dead. That story was quickly knocked down by the Zimbabwean parks authority and Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which said Jericho wasn’t dead — and wasn’t Cecil’s brother, either.
Palmer, a dentist, has admitted to shooting Cecil with a bow and arrow and injuring the lion, according to an account detailed by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a nongovernmental group. After tracking the 13-year-old lion for about 40 hours, Palmer is alleged to have killed the animal with a gun. Cecil was then beheaded and skinned.
Palmer, a Minnesota resident, said Tuesday that “I deeply regret” killing “a known, local favorite” and that he relied on local guides. He said he was led to believe that the hunt was legal. “I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have,” Palmer said at the time.
After U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators failed to locate Palmer last week, a person representing the dentist contacted the agency’s law enforcement division on Thursday — hours before Zimbabwean authorities announced their intention to extradite Palmer.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Monday that Richard Chibuwe, deputy chief of mission at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Washington, said officials in his country would like to “bring some kind of speed to extradition. We are hoping that things will move with a bit of speed.”
Zimbabwean officials have not said whether they will also seek to extradite Seski.
Seski’s neighbors told the AP that the doctor is not particularly social. Ernest Hahn described Seski as “quirky” and noted that he is sometimes seen wearing a “low-slung pistol ‘like a gunslinger.'”
“It seemed to me everything he does is aboveboard,” Hahn said. “I’ve never seen him done anything illegal or unsportsmanlike at all.”
Stewart Dorrington, who owns a South African game reserve where Seski hunted in 2012, referred to the hunter as a “perfect gentleman.”
“He was a great guy,” Dorrington told the AP. “Everything he did was perfectly legal and aboveboard and a great help to our conservation efforts.”
Before Seski’s social media presence was removed Sunday, he was under attack.
“Another ‘person’ who is trained to preserve life, yet takes pleasure in paying to kill,” Elizabeth Stahlmann wrote on Seski’s office Facebook page, according to the New York Daily News.
The Zimbabwean wildlife authority said over the weekend that it has suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in areas outside Hwange National Park and ordered hunters in the field to stop “hunting activities.”
The authority said the move was part of a government plan “to crack down and weed out any illegal hunting activities.”
This post, originally published on Aug. 2, has been updated. A previous version incorrectly spelled Jan Seski’s first name.