ZIMBABWE – The hunter who allegedly helped Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer kill Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in July is in trouble again – he was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle sable antelopes into South Africa, police said Tuesday.
Theo Bronkhorst, 52, of Zimbabwe, was due to appear in court on Wednesday to address the new charges in Beitbridge, a town on the border with South Africa, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told the associated press.
Bronkhorst is accused of trying to move wild animals without a permit and of being an accomplice in a smuggling racket that involved trying to bring 29 sables, worth $384,000, into South Africa, the AP reports.
Three other South African men were also caught with sables when their cars got stuck along the Limpopo River, which marks Zimbabwe’s border with South Africa, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement, according to the AP.
The men were said to not have the necessary capture and translocation permits authorizing them to move the sables from a private sanctuary in Zimbabwe to a private conservancy in South Africa, the parks authority said.
The result of Wednesday’s court date is unclear. Local newspaper The Chronicle report reports that prosecutors withdrew their charges over lack of evidence. Bronkhorst reportedly did have a permit but failed to comply with its parameters.
“Bronkhorst had no right to take the trophies to another place not mentioned in the permit,” prosecuting attorney Taurai Hondoyemoto told the paper. Bronkhorst maintains his innocence.
However, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority posted a statement on its website stating that the charges have not been dropped and that Bronkhorst was due back in court this Thursday.
Emails sent by PEOPLE to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the Judicial Service Commission in Zimbabwe and the South African Police Service were not immediately returned.
Bronkhorst is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 28 for his role in Cecil’s death back in July.
Palmer, 55, the dentist who hired Bronkhorst, has insisted he had no idea the hunt was not legal. He’s also expressed regret for killing Cecil, saying he had no idea the lion was a local favorite and part of an Oxford research study.