Theunis Botha made his living leading groups of wealthy hunters to hunt down and kill exotic animals on the African savannah, but the 51-year-old ended up being killed by one of those same animals.
The world renowned hunting guide was leading a group of hunters in Zimbabwe when they came across a herd of elephants, News 24 reported. Three elephants charged attacked the hunters, leading Botha to shoot at them.
A fourth elephant then lifted Botha up with her trunk, and another member of the group shot the elephant. The shot was fatal, but as the elephant fell to the ground dead it also crushed Botha underneath her giant body, News 24 reported.
The story of Theunis Botha’s death made international headlines not only for the bizarre circumstances of his passing but also his stature in the world of big-game hunting. He would regularly take wealthy American clients into the African wilderness to bag exotic animals, with a focus on leopard and lion hunting.
Botha was even credited with bringing European-style “Monteria hunts” into southern Africa, the Telegraph reported.
“In Monteira hunts large packs of dogs are used to drive deer and boar towards hunters who then open fire on the animals,” the report noted. “Mr Botha was a specialist at hunting leopards with his big game hounds.”
As News 24 reported, another close friend of Theunis Botha had just been killed by animals while on a big game hunt. Scott van Zyl was leading a crocodile hunt in the Chikwaraka camp when he disappeared, the report noted.
A crocodile was later shot in the area and DNA results of the animal’s stomach contents matched the missing hunter, the BBC reported.
Scott van Zyl was hunting with a pack of dogs and was with another hunter seeking out crocodiles. Van Zyl did not return from the hunt, and a set of footprints were found leading to an abandoned rucksack, the BBC report noted. Authorities conducted a search of the area and the Heritage Protection Group joined in, helping to hunt down crocodiles to find evidence of van Zyl.
“Permission was given for three Nile crocodiles in the area to be shot, and one of them contained Mr Van Zyl’s remains,” said the group’s leader, Sakkie Louwrens. “Subsequent DNA tests have proved the remains to be those of Mr Van Zyl.”
Many animal rights groups spoke out against the big-game hunting operations in the area, noting the unnecessary dangers.
“[He] shouldn’t have been hunting in the first place. Animals in the wild… are wild! They are living, thinking beings with instincts for survival,” the group One Green Planet noted in a statement on Scott van Zyl’s death.
But there were other factors surrounding Theunis Botha’s death. As the Telegraph noted, many villagers in the surrounding areas complained that elephants were eating their crops and disrupting their livestock, and elephants were also responsible for the deaths of tourists.
“Last year a tourist, Stephen Coetzee was trampled to death by a female elephant in Hwange National Park,” the report noted. “Mr Coetzee, from Bulawayo, was taking pictures of the animals when they charged.”
After Botha’s death, many people left condolences on Facebook and remembered him as a dedicated father and husband. It also became a popular story online, shooting to the top spot on the link-sharing site Reddit’s “Not The Onion,” subreddit, dedicated to news that would seem a good fit for the parody site The Onion but is actually real.
Theunis Botha was survived by his wife, Carika, and their four children. Carika is reportedly traveling to Zimbabwe to identify her husband’s body before returning to South Africa for burial.
[Featured Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]