Cecil killer helper arrested

  • 16/09/2015
Theo Bronkhorst (Reuters)
Theo Bronkhorst (Reuters)

The professional hunter who helped an American dentist kill Zimbabwe's popular lion Cecil has been arrested for his alleged link with an illegal operation to smuggle 29 sable antelope out of the country.

Theo Bronkhorst, 52, was arrested on Monday (local time) in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo, police said on Tuesday.

"He is facing charges of moving wild animals without a permit" and smuggling of wild animals, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said in a statement.

The arrest came days after three South Africans were arrested and charged for trying to smuggle 29 sable - a rare and expensive breed of antelope - out of Zimbabwe into South Africa.

Hewitt Edwin, 49, Blignaut Hendricks Johannes, 41, and Pretorius Herbert John, 49, also face charges of illegal capture and translocation of wildlife as well as illegally crossing an international boundary, according to wildlife authorities.

Zimbabwean authorities said over the weekend the animals - which include six calves and are valued at US$384,000 - were captured from a private conservancy in the northwestern resort town of Victoria Falls.

A friend of Bronkhorst's claimed the animals had come from Zambia and that the hunter had only helped the South Africans secure an import permit into Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean hunter was the guide during a hunt which saw American dentist Walter Palmer pay $US55,000 to shoot the popular feline Cecil, with a bow and arrow in July.

The killing of the lion, who was being collared and tracked as part of an Oxford University research project, provoked outrage among animal lovers worldwide.

Bronkhorst was on a $US1000 bail pending his trial on September 28 on charges of organising an illegal hunt which led to the lion's death.

Sables are prized for their rarity and long horns, according to Peter Oberem, president of Wildlife Ranching South Africa.