Cecil the lion hunter allegedly “abducted” in Zimbabwe

Cecil the lion hunter allegedly “abducted” in Zimbabwe

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ZIMBABWE – Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter accused of arranging an “illegal” hunt in which Zimbabwe’s famous lion Cecil died in july, was allegedly “abducted” by police from his home in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, on Monday.

His supposed abduction is in connection with another wildlife controversy.

Bronkhorst, 52, spent two days in police detention last week because of his involvement with three South Africans who had been arrested for trying to cross an “undesignated” border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, with a cargo of 29 sable antelope.

Three of the sable antelope died from dehydration after the South Africa-registered truck in which they were being transported, got stuck in sand in the middle of the Limpopo River.

Bronkhorst told police after his arrest last week he had imported the sable into Zimbabwe from Zambia and that the majority of animals were bought by the three South Africans.

He also told police that he had paid for about a dozen of the animals for his own breeding programme in Zimbabwe.

No charges were put to Bronkhorst during his stay in police cells at the Hillside Police Station last week.

He allegedly produced substantial documentation, including permits, to show he was authorised to import the sable from Zambia to Zimbabwe as proof that his sable were where he said they were.

The three South Africans, Edwin Hewitt, 49, Hendricks Blignaut 41, and John Pretorius, 49, from Limpopo province near the Zimbabwe border are in jail on remand, after they were refused bail in the Beit Bridge Magistrate’s court two weeks ago.

Police say the South Africans had a veterinary permit to take the sable from Zambia through Zimbabwe to South Africa, but they were charged with trying to cross the Zimbabwe-South Africa border at an “undesignated” point.

Bronkhorst was allegedly picked up by police from his Bulawayo home earlier on Monday and taken by officers to Beit Bridge.

He told African News Agency that police said he would appear in court early Tuesday.

His wife, Michelle and his advocate Perpetua Dube were due at the border town early Tuesday.

Bronkhorst said: “I feel very bad about this, as I do not know why I have been taken away from my home in Bulawayo to Beit Bridge.”

He is to go on trial on September 28 at the Hwange Magistrate’s Court charged with arranging an illegal hunt for american dentist Walter Palmer, to shoot Cecil with a bow and arrow.

Palmer wounded the lion on July 1 and he and Bronkhorst returned to finish off the lion early the next day.

Cecil was shot not far from where he was born, on land which was taken from white farmers in 2000 and is still designated as privately-owned land though the Zimbabwe government has proclaimed all farms as state land.

Cecil was wearing a collar which had been put on him by lion researchers from Oxford University.

Zimbabwe’s wildlife laws were established in 1975 and the existing regulations have not been updated for about 20 years.

Many wildlife experts say the laws need urgent updating.

Some of the penalties are still quoted in Zimbabwe dollars even though the currency was abandoned early in 2009.

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