Hunter accused of giving bribes for African elephant kill


U.S. prosecutors have indicted the owner of a South African hunting company, accusing him of bribing Zimbabwean officials while guiding a Colorado tourist and working to have the ivory tusks of an elephant that the group illegally killed inside a national park imported to the United States.

Prosecutors in Colorado said Hanno van Rensburg took a hunting party to the area around Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe to hunt elephants in 2015. The Colorado client shot one elephant that did not die. The group then tracked the animal into the national park but could not find it, according to prosecutors.

An indictment unsealed last week said van Rensburg and the hunter bribed government officials with at least $5,000 to let the party shoot other elephants inside the park. Zimbabwean law does not allow hunters tracking a wounded animal inside the park to hunt other wildlife.

Someone in the group shot and killed a different elephant. Prosecutors say van Rensburg conspired with the client from Colorado to export ivory from the animal, falsely claiming that the hunter was a resident of South Africa and that the elephant was not shot inside a national park.

In 2015, U.S. law banned importing the body parts of African elephants killed for sport in Zimbabwe. However, the Trump administration announced two months ago that requests to import elephant trophies would be approved on a “case-by-case basis.”

Van Rensburg, 44, also is charged with violating a broader U.S. law that makes it illegal to transport or sell wildlife killed in violation of any foreign law.

Officials said van Rensburg has not been arrested. An arrest warrant filed with the court orders “any authorized law enforcement officer” to take him into custody. The charges include wire fraud, conspiracy and violating the Endangered Species Act.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners work together to support global efforts to protect threatened and endangered wildlife from illegal poaching,” U.S. Attorney for Colorado Bob Troyer said. “(Fish and Wildlife Services) and our prosecutors did an extraordinary job investigating this case.”

Read more at the AP