Authorities in Zimbabwe are seeking another American over an alleged illegal lion hunt in the country in April, and locals hope the sudden global spotlight on big game hunting can be used to improve the lucrative but murky industry.
Investigators in Zimbabwe say that Jan Casimir Seski may have participated in the April hunt without a proper permit. Dr. Seski is the second American wanted in Zimbabwe. The country has also been calling for the US to extradite Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist accused of illegally killing a famous lion just outside the boundaries of Hwange National Park, a protected reserve.
Authorities in Zimbabwe claim that Seski may have been involved in a similar incident, shooting a lion on a farm next to Hwange National Park.
Dr. Palmer is accused of killing Cecil the Lion, a popular lion in Zimbabwe who was being tracked as part of an Oxford University study. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating him for potentially violating a federal law prohibiting the trade of illegally slaughtered wildlife.
Zimbabwe, ranked the second-poorest country in the world by Global Finance Magazine last month, remains largely dependent on the hunting and safari industries for revenue. Trophy hunting in Zimbabwe generates about $16 million a year, with wealthy enthusiasts from the US and UK willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars on a single hunt. Dr. Palmer reportedly spent $50,000 for the hunt that killed Cecil the Lion.
Continent-wide, trophy hunting generations roughly $200 million every year, but other countries have been cracking down on trophy hunting in recent years, meaning hunters have increasingly turned to Zimbabwe.
Botswana and Zambia, both of whom neighbor Zimbabwe, recently banned trophy hunting of some animals on public lands. But, as more hunters come to Zimbabwe to track and kill big game, the country is not seeing a similar growth in revenue. Zimbabwe saw a 10 percent uptick in hunters during the 2013 season, after the bans in Botswana and Zambia, but revenue rose from $30 million the season before to $45 million, about $10 million short of the country’s target.
About 600 lions are killed legally every year, and 60 percent of those end up in the US, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Jeff Flocken, the IFAW North American regional director, told CBS News that the hunting is creating a negative feedback loop of sorts. As hunting decimates lion populations, they become rarer, and hunting becomes even more popular.
“The scarcity is helping to drive the killing of these creatures,” he said. “It’s not something to be proud of.”
Locals in Zimbabwe say they have been surprised at the global outrage over the death of Cecil the Lion, but there is hope in the country that the attention can be used for positive reforms in the country, which has been plagued for decades by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. The US have subjected Zimbabwe to targeted sanctions since 2003 “as a result of the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe,” according to the US embassy in Harare.
And while many Zimbabweans would like tighter regulations of the hunting industry in the country, they don’t believe it’s their most pressing need. Takura Zhangazha, a Zimbabwe-based blogger, wrote for AlJazeera that while many in the country are aware of how lucrative the hunting industry is, “very few Zimbabweans knew about” Cecil the Lion when he was killed.
“What has astounded some Zimbabweans is the fact that this particular lion has become a global sensation – far beyond the other issues affecting their country, for which they would like the international community to demonstrate solidarity.
While there is a general consensus that killing a wild animal illegally is wrong and that perpetrators must be brought to justice, there are other issues that Zimbabweans hope would grab the world’s attention just as powerfully as Cecil has.
Those range from the need for increased assistance to alleviate the country’s ongoing economic crisis to issues relating to human rights and good, responsible governance.”