Hunting Accident File > Violations

AL: S. African sentenced after illegal import of leopard to Alabama

April 19, 2010

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A 42-year-old South African national was sentenced to "time served" and ordered to pay $30,000 in fines after illegally importing a hunted leopard to the United States. The trophy was bound for a hunter in Alabama. U.S. Attorney Leaura Canary's office confirmed the sentence.

Dawie Groenewald was also ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to the hunter who unknowingly paid for, and participated in an illegal safari in South Africa. Canary's office said the hunter cooperated with investigators.

Groenewald owns a guiding and outfitting business in Limpopo Province, South Africa called "Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris". He pleaded guilty to a violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife law that makes it illegal to import to the United States wildlife that was illegally taken under the laws of another country. The violation is a felony.

Investigators say Groenewald was arrested in late January at the Montgomery Airport after visiting his brother. He was indicted in February, spent eight days in jail and nearly two and a half months under house arrest at his brother's home before this week's sentencing.

An investigation shows that Groenewald sold the hunting safari to the sportsman in 2006, knowing that he was breaking the law. He then waited nearly two years before applying for a permit to export the trophy to the United States, saying the animal had been killed in 2008.

The leopard never made it to Alabama. It was intercepted by Service wildlife inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Leopards are protected under both the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a global treaty upheld by more than 175 countries.

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