A South African national, who facilitated an American trophy hunter’s illegal elephant hunt and schemed with him to sell the animal’s tusks, was yesterday indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, which prohibit the interstate commerce of poached animals.

Hanno van Rensburg owns Authentic African Adventures, a trophy hunting outfitter based in South Africa. He was charged with leading and participating in the illegal hunt of an African elephant in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park in 2015 by his client, Paul Ross Jackson, a former vice president of Dallas Safari Club, a membership organization for trophy hunters. Jackson last month pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act in connection with the same hunt.

The indictment asserts that Van Rensburg shot several elephants and “paid somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 in bribes to Zimbabwean government officials in return for their permission to authorize the shooting of multiple elephants, the killing of an elephant inside Gonarezhou National Park, and the release of the elephant’s ivory tusks.” Van Rensburg allegedly helped Jackson export the elephant’s tusks out of Zimbabwe to South Africa by falsifying documentation stating that his client was a South Africa resident.

The DOJ press release states that Van Rensburg advertised “his willingness to pay bribes to obtain tags to hunt inside Gonarezhou National Park” to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent. The indictment further reports that Van Rensburg commented to the agent that “If the client pays the money they will find another tag. I am straightforward with you. Corruption is the rule in Africa.”

Iris Ho, wildlife program manager of Humane Society International, said, “Details contained in the indictment by the Department of Justice against Hanno Van Rensburg expose trophy hunting for what it really is. Van Rensburg and his client were bent on killing elephants, not just one, but several, in their blood-thirsty pursuit. Allegations of lying to authorities, bribing government officials and falsifying documents, are the tactics they reportedly deployed. Trophy hunting is not conservation but purely a head-hunting exercise pursued by wealthy people who are not used to hearing the word ‘no’.”

Additional information about Paul Ross Jackson, Hanno van Rensburg, and Authentic African Adventures:

  • In April 2018, Paul Ross Jackson, known as Ross Jackson, pleaded guilty in a federal court to violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The African elephant is listed as “threatened” under the ESA and regulations make it unlawful to deliver, receive, carry, transport or ship in interstate or foreign commerce and in the course of a commercial activity any African elephant hunting trophy.
  • Paul Ross Jackson was a vice president of Dallas Safari Club until the news broke that he pleaded guilty.
  • Paul Ross Jackson intended to sell the tusks of the elephant he shot for USD 300 per pound. The tusks weighed approximately 116.8 pounds to total USD 35,000 if sold in South Africa.
  • The Lacey Act makes it illegal to import, transport or sell in interstate or foreign commerce wildlife killed in violation of any foreign law.
  • Hanno Van Rensburg’s company, Authentic African Adventures, has donated multiple hunts to Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.

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