WASHINGTON DC —
Zimbabwean authorities have accused another American of illegally killing a lion. The announcement follows Zimbabwe's request that Washington extradite Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer for the alleged poaching of a rare, black-maned lion.
According to Zimbabwe, Pennsylvania medical doctor Jan Casimir Seski illegally killed a lion near the Hwange National Park in April with a bow-and-arrow, in April this year.
Landowner and safari organizer Headman Sibanda was arrested in the case. Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the Hwange area.
Last week, news of the killing of a well-known black-maned lion named Cecil by Walter Palmer sparked international outrage on social media.
In a statement Tuesday, Palmer said he believed he was acting legally when he killed Cecil on July 1. He said he used professional guides and secured all proper permits.
Palmer's guide, Theo Bronkhorst, faces trial in Zimbabwe Wednesday on a charge of failing to prevent an illegal hunt. In an interview with the French Press Agency (AFP), he denied allegations they lured the wounded Cecil out of Hwange National Park and killed it with a gun. He pleaded not guilty.
Appearing Sunday on a U.S. Television broadcast, conservationist Jack Hanna, director-emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, says the lion population has dwindled dramatically in the last 70 years:
"In 1947, when I was born, there were about 450,000 lions worldwide,” Hanna said. “In the mid-1970s, when my kids were born, there were about 100,000. Today, there are less than 30,000."
Asked if it was time to put an end to so-called trophy-hunting, the selective hunting of wild game animals in which part of the slain animal, such as the skin, antlers or head, is kept as a hunting trophy, Hanna said yes.
"I think issues have to be looked at, yes. I'm not saying an end to everything. The predator relationship to prey is messed up in a lot of places, so you have to work on that. However, I think this issue has to be looked at immediately considering the loss of the lions now, to 30,000. We're going to have to take some of these animals that might be plentiful somewhere and put these animals in other areas where they need these animals."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is investigating the Palmer case and comments have flooded the Twitter hashtag #CecilLion. The dentist has not been seen in public since the story made news last week, his office is closed and he has reportedly been the object of death threats.
Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined to discuss Zimbabwe's request that Palmer be sent there for trial:
Toner said, "I can more broadly talk about extradition and how that process works, if it's helpful. They are received by the Department of State through diplomatic channels, and State works closely with the Department of Justice to determine whether an incoming extradition request meets the requirements of the applicable treaty.
"The Department of Justice then presents the request to a US court that determines whether the individual is extraditable. After those judicial proceedings have been completed, it's the secretary of state who makes the final decision on whether to extradite an individual to another country. And, obviously, humanitarian concerns and the ability of an individual to receive a fair trial may be considered at this stage of the process."
Jens David Ohlin, a Cornell University Law School professor, says Palmer could be extraditable if what is alleged in Zimbabwe can also be considered a crime in the United States, punishable by at least one year in prison. But, Ohlin says there are further legal tools Palmer can use:
"Well, I think there are two levels. The first is that he can lobby the Justice Department and he can lobby the State Department, or his lawyers can, and ask them to block the extradition request and to not comply with it.
But, assuming that the State Department and the Justice Department decide that they want to comply with the extradition request, even if that happens, Palmer's lawyers still have an avenue available to them, which is they can fight extradition after he's been arrested in the United States.
The process for him would be that he would be arrested, he'd be brought to a local court and, at that point, instead of waiving extradition he could contest it and he could say there is some defect in the process."
In Washington, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez has introduced legislation called Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large, or CECIL, Animal Trophies Act. It would expand import bans to species proposed for listing as threatened or endangered, as well as those already considered endangered. (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/sen-menendez-announces-cecil-animal-trophies-act-to-disincentivize-trophy-killings)