Monday, June 04, 2018

US Prosecutors Indict South African Trophy Hunter

Federal prosecutors have indicted Hanno van Rensburg, a South African national and owner of a trophy hunting business for violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act.  His business, Authentic African Adventures led an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park in 2015 for elephant.  Prosecutors allege that Zimbabwean officials were bribed with between $5000 and $8000 to ignore the illegal hunt.  Van Rensburg is also accused of conspiring to import elephant ivory into the US with a Colorado man, and former vice president of the Dallas Hunt Club, Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen.  Documentation was falsified to claim that the hunter was a South African who shot the elephant outside the national park.  The African elephant is listed as "threatened" under the ESA, importation of their ivory is therefore illegal.   Under the Lacey Act importation is prohibited if the species was killed in violation of a foreign nation's laws.

The current administration earlier announced its decision to allow importation of trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe on a confusing "case by case basis".  The Obama administration has previously banned importation of trophies from these countries altogether.  According to a Justice Department press release, Van Rensburg also attempted to sell an illegal elephant hunt to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent.  Among other things, the defendant attempted to sell the undercover agent a hunt in the same location outside Gonarezhou National Park, and advertised his willingness to pay bribes to obtain tags to hunt inside Gonarezhou National Park.  He suggested to the undercover agent that he bring approximately $9,000 in “extras” to the hunt so that “we can use in camp to make things straight if we need to.”  Jackson pleaded guilty in April to violating the Act in connection to the same hunt conducted by van Rensburg.  Whether this indictment is more than a symbolic gesture will depend on the effort to extradite van Rensburg to the United States.  An extradition agreement between the two nations was ratified in 2001.