Who Is Theo Bronkhorst, The Safari Guide Who Took Walter Palmer Hunting In Zimbabwe?

Professional Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst leaves the Magistrate's Court in Hwange on July 29, 2015, after proceedings on poaching charges. Bronkhorst and local landowner Honest Ndlovu appeared in a Zimbabwean court on poaching charges on July 29 after a wealthy American dentist killed a beloved lion just outside a national park, sparking criticism around the world. Cecil the lion, a popular attraction among international visitors to Hwange National Park, was lured beyond the reserve's boundaries by bait and killed earlier this month. Bronkhorst was granted bail on July 29 on charges of 'failing to prevent an illegal hunt' after he organised the expedition in which the lion was killed by an American dentist and experienced trophy hunter identified as Walter Palmer, who allegedly paid 50,000 USD for the hunt. AFP PHOTO / ZINYANGE AUNTONY (Photo credit should read Zinyange Auntony/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: ZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images

The hunting guide charged with illegally hunting Cecil the lion, a famous Zimbabwean attraction, has claimed that the charges against him are "frivolous" and "wrong." So who is Theo Bronkhorst, the guide who helped Walter Palmer on his hunt? Bronkhorst guided the American dentist on a hunt in July, which ended with Palmer killing Cecil. Zimbabwean officials want both men punished; they want Palmer extradited, and the guide is due back in court in September. Both have denied doing anything wrong, and have said that they didn't know it was a famous lion. Bronkhorst told NBC News, "I regret shooting a lion called Cecil, that was never the intention. I didn't know he existed. Any other lion, I don't think it would have been a problem."

Bronkhorst, 55, is a professional hunter and owns the safari company Bushman Safaris Zimbabwe, described on its Facebook page as "a family run business with years of experience, offering top quality hunts with maximum results." Bronkhorst started the business in 1992 and now runs it with his two sons, Zane and Jason, and his wife, Michele. The Facebook page says the company specializes in leopards, buffalo, elephants, and other big game. Palmer reportedly paid $55,000 to hunt Cecil with a crossbow during a trophy hunt with Bronkhorst.

Zimbabwe National Parks issued a statement naming Bronkhorst in Cecil's death, along with Zimbabwean landowner Honest Ndlovu, claiming that the hunter did not have permission to hunt a lion on the land and that he illegally removed Cecil's collar. Bronkhorst pleaded not guilty to his charges last week and was released on a $1,000 bail. "I do not feel I have done anything wrong," Bronkhorst told NBC News. "This has been a very stressful time for me and my family. We have been pulled into something we are not happy with." When he goes to court on Sept. 28, Bronkhorst could face a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail, according to Reuters, and he has already lost his hunting license. When asked if he thought he would win the case, Bronkhorst told NBC News, "I've got a good legal team, and I hope so."

Bronkhorst told reporters outside the courthouse that he feels sorry for Palmer, who's become known as a lion-killing villain in America. "He is a good man. He did nothing wrong," Bronkhorst said. Palmer apologized for shooting the well-known lion and said he knew of no illegal activity during their hunt. In a statement issued July 28, Palmer said: "I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt."

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