Zim cops arrest Cecil hunter over sable smuggling

Harare - Police in Zimbabwe have arrested Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter behind the killing of Cecil the lion, following the discovery of 29 sable antelope allegedly being smuggled to South Africa, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Advocate Perpetua Dube said: "He’s been arrested. He’s detained at Hillside Police station."

Bronkhorst was arrested on Monday but charges against him are yet to be clarified, Dube said in a telephone interview from Bulawayo.

“The police from Beitbridge will determine that [when he will be brought to court]. I haven’t had a meeting with them. They were on their way last night,” she added.

Separate reports say that the professional hunter is under suspicion for illegally importing 29 sables from Zambia.

Three SA men detained

Conservation group the Bhejane Trust confirmed the sable were found in three 4x4 trucks that were trying to illegally cross the South African border near Beitbridge at the weekend.

Three South African men, all in their forties, are being held for trying to illegally export the animals.

Two of the animals had already died by the time the trucks were intercepted, the Bhejane Trust said.

It claimed the sables were originally imported from Zambia. "The Zimbabwean import papers could be dodgy," the group added.

Officials from the Bhejane Trust, which operates in the Victoria Falls and Hwange area, were not available for comment early on Tuesday. According to the trust, the animals had been kept in a boma on a farm Bronkhorst was living on outside Victoria Falls.

Cecil case

Bronkhorst is already due back in court at the end of the month for his part in the killing of Zimbabwe's most famous lion in early July in Hwange National Park.

Bronkhorst's client was US dentist Walter Palmer, who insists he believed the hunt - first with a bow and arrow and then with a gun - was legal. Palmer was a focus of global hatred when outrage over the 13-year-old lion's killing was at its peak at the beginning of August.

Invent Africa Safaris said in a post to Facebook: "The trucks got stuck in thick sand about 21 kilometres west of Beitbridge while attempting to cross the Limpopo River illegally, and were then confiscated by Zimbabwean police.

"The sable, thought to be of the sub-species kirkii, which typically have longer horns than their southern cousins, may well be part of a larger consignment South African breeders and hunters have been trying to smuggle out of Zambia since 2009."

Bronkhorst will appear in court on September 28 in connection with the Cecil case. Though the Zimbabwe authorities earlier indicated their desire to extradite dentist Palmer, they now seem to have abandoned the idea.

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