News and Press Releases

South African Safari Owner Sentenced for His Role in the Illegal Importation of a Leopard

April 16, 2010

Montgomery, Alabama - Dawie Groenewald, a 42-year old, South African national, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama, to “time served” and a $30,000 criminal fine in connection with the importation of an unlawfully hunted leopard trophy into the United States, announced United States Attorney Leura G. Canary and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Chavez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Southwest Region Office of Law Enforcement.

Groenewald, the owner of a guiding and outfitting business, known as “Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris” in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was also ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to a U.S. hunter who cooperated with investigators after learning that he had unknowingly paid for, and participated in, an illegal safari in South Africa. The defendant had pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife law that makes it illegal to import into the United States any wildlife unlawfully taken under the laws and regulations of another country.

Groenewald was arrested on January 29, 2010, by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents at the airport in Montgomery after visiting his brother and indicted in February by a federal grand jury on charges of smuggling and violating the Lacey Act. He spent eight days in jail and almost 2 and a half months in home incarceration at his brother’s residence before being sentenced this week.

During the course of the investigation, Service special agents worked with authorities in Limpopo Province, South Africa to collect evidence showing that Groenewald sold a leopard hunting safari to a U.S. sportsman and conducted that hunt in 2006 knowing that he did not have the right or authorization to do so under South African laws and regulations. Groenewald waited two years to apply for a permit to export the trophy to the United States, falsely claiming that the animal had been killed in 2008. The trophy was intercepted by Service wildlife inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as it was being imported into the United State from South Africa.

“This case demonstrates our commitment to upholding laws that protect not only our native wildlife but species around the world,” said U.S. Attorney Canary. “The Lacey Act is an important instrument in this enforcement arena. The United States is not an open market for hunting trophies or any other wildlife imports that represent violations of the laws of other nations.”

“In the not-so-distant past, leopards were nearly hunted to extinction,” said Special Agent in Charge Chavez. “We will continue to work with U.S. prosecutors and our global partners to safeguard imperiled species and bring wildlife poachers and traffickers to justice both here and beyond our borders.”

Leopards are protected under both the U.S. Endangered Species Act (which lists African populations as “threatened”) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – a global treaty upheld by more than 175 countries (including the United States and South Africa) that uses a system of permits to regulate trade in wildlife and plants that would otherwise face the threat of extinction. South Africa and several other nations in Africa closely regulate hunting of these big cats to control the number killed each year. The legal import of a sport-hunted leopard trophy requires permits issued under the CITES treaty by both the exporting and importing country.

U.S. Attorney Canary commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Compliance and Enforcement officers of the Limpopo Provincial Government of South Africa. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Monica A. Stump.


Telephone: (334) 551-1755
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