Hunter accused in Cecil the lion case faces new charge

Farai Mutsaka
Associated Press

Harare, Zimbabwe — A professional hunter in Zimbabwe who helped an American dentist kill a well-known lion named Cecil has now been arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle sable antelopes into South Africa, Zimbabwean police said Tuesday.

Theo Bronkhorst, a Zimbabwean, is in police custody in the southern city of Bulawayo following his arrest a day earlier and will appear Wednesday in a court in Beitbridge, a town on the border with South Africa, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said.

Police and Zimbabwe National Parks officials also caught three South African men after the vehicles carrying the sables got stuck along the Limpopo River which marks Zimbabwe’s border with South Africa, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement.

“Bronkhorst will be charged for trying to move wild animals without a permit. He faces an additional charge of being an accomplice in a smuggling racket involving the sables,” Charamba told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The scheme involved trying to smuggle 29 sables worth $384,000 into South Africa, according to the parks authority.

The South Africans had no capture and translocation permits authorizing them to move the sables — seven males, 16 females and six calves — from a private sanctuary in Zimbabwe to a private conservancy in South Africa, the parks authority said.

Bronkhorst had been out on bail after being charged for the allegedly illegal hunt of Cecil by dentist James Walter Palmer in July. He is due to go on trial in that case on Sept. 28. Authorities say Cecil was lured out of a national park with an animal carcass before he was shot.

The lion’s death sparked an international outcry, prompting some airlines to ban the transport of parts of lions and other animals killed by hunters.