Theo Bronkhorst, Cecil The Lion's Tracker, Arrested For Smuggling Antelope In Africa Before Trial - Yet He Walks Free

Patrick Frye

Theo Bronkhorst, the man known as Cecil the Lion's tracker, was recently arrested for allegedly smuggling sable antelope into South Africa. Bronkhurst's lawyer managed to get the charges dropped, but the founder of Bushman Safaris still faces charges related to Cecil the Lion's death, and it's possible Bronkhurt will be served different charges over this new incident.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, Walter Palmer, the dentist who shot Cecil the Lion with a bow and arrow, recently reopened his dental practice after weeks of protests at his door. Palmer maintains his innocence, claiming that "nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion."

Earlier in the year, hunting guide Theo Bronkhorst was charged by police in Victoria Falls after officials said they determined the hunt was illegal. It is also suspected that Zane Bronkhurst, Theo's son, was part of the hunt. Bronkhurst pleaded not guilty to helping American Walter Palmer kill Cecil the Lion, but Zimbabwe officials said Bronkhurst was not supposed to have killed any lion at the time.

"Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015," the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement. "Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management as the Regulatory Authority and custodian of all wild animals in Zimbabwe issues hunting permits and hunting quota for all hunting areas in Zimbabwe so that only animals on quota are to be hunted. In this case, both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt."

According to NBC, Theo Bronkurst's trial was postponed until September 28, 2015. If convicted in Cecil the Lion's death, Bronkhurst faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. He denies all of the charges and claims he had a "licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot." The hunter also claims he had never heard of Cecil beforehand, and he insists no one would be outraged if it had been any other lion than Cecil.

Now, the professional hunter has even bigger problems. According to Bloomberg, authorities had Theo Bronkhurst arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly trying to smuggle sable antelope into South Africa through an illegal border escape.

"It would seem that the final number of sable involved in the smuggling ring between Zimbabwe and South Africa is far higher than originally thought. 28 sable were impounded along with the trucks and these belonged to Edwin Hewitt from Bela Bela in South Africa," wrote Invent Africa Safaris on Facebook. "However, it now emerges that another 22 sable belonging to Theo Bronkhorst, the PH responsible for luring Cecil the Lion to his death were due to be trucked out at a later stage. These sable are thought to still be in a quarantine boma in Zimbabwe. Given Bronkhorst's recent record, one can only hope the wildlife and hunting authorities around the world throw the book at this guy."

Smuggling sable antelope can be quite lucrative since they can be auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes the animals are used as targets for hunting parties. Bronkhurst denied owning the antelopes found inside the trucks, and ZimEye reports that the government withdrew the sable antelope smuggling charges due to lack of evidence.

But it is possible Theo Bronkhorst may still be charged with possession of wildlife trophies. The new charges were discussed after 29 animal skins and 10 skulls were found at Bronkorst's house on Monday. The hunter's lawyer, Perpetua Dube, denies the charge.

"The charge is that he moved and possessed a trophy contrary to the conditions of a permit," Dube said. "He has a permit to move and possess the trophies but they say he contravened the terms of the permit."

Cecil the Lion's hunter has already paid bail and walked out a free man, but it still possible Bronkhorst will end up in prison after the upcoming trial.

[Photo by Daughter #3 via flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0]