Zimbabwe DNA tests 'prove hunter was killed by a crocodile'

  • Published
Nile crocodile (23 September 2016)Image source, Science Photo Library
Image caption,
Nile crocodiles lurk almost totally submerged in the water as they lie in wait for passing prey

DNA tests on the carcass of a crocodile shot in Zimbabwe have confirmed that it contains the remains of a missing South African hunter, an investigator has told the BBC.

Scott Van Zyl was killed last week on the banks of the Limpopo river, said Sakkie Louwrens, director of a South-African crime-fighting NGO.

He said Mr Van Zyl disappeared during a hunting safari last week.

His death is the latest in a series of fatal crocodile attacks in Zimbabwe.

Mr Louwrens told the BBC that Mr Van Zyl had gone on a hunting trip on the Zimbabwe-South Africa border with a local tracker and a pack of dogs.

Image source, Heritage Protection Group
Image caption,
Professional hunter Scott Van Zyl disappeared last week in Zimbabwe

He said the pair left their vehicle and went in different directions in search of crocodiles.

A search and rescue operation was launched after Mr Van Zyl's dogs returned to their camp without him.

The hunter's footprints were traced to river bank alongside his discarded rucksack. He was married, had two children and took foreign clients on hunting trips.

Mr Louwrens said staff from the Heritage Protection Group - an organisation which he heads and helps police fight crime in South Africa - informally helped the Zimbabwean authorities conduct the search.

"Permission was given for three Nile crocodiles in the area to be shot, and one of them contained Mr Van Zyl's remains," he said. "Subsequent DNA tests have proved the remains to be those of Mr Van Zyl."

At least four fatal attacks by crocodiles have been reported in Zimbabwe this year.

One conservation group meanwhile has condemned the circumstances of his "senseless" death.

"[He] shouldn't have been hunting in the first place. Animals in the wild… are wild! They are living, thinking beings with instincts for survival," a statement by One Green Planet said.

Nile crocodiles

Image source, Science Photo Library
Image caption,
The Nile crocodile is one of Africa's most feared predators
  • Predators of Africa's rivers and lakes, they lurk almost totally submerged in the water as they lie in wait for passing prey which is then dragged into the water and drowned
  • Renowned for their long powerful jaws, few creatures escape from their clutches - not even large buffalo and wildebeest
  • Their large bodies and long tails hide quick reflexes and fast bursts of speed
  • They are extremely attentive and protective parents, with a surprisingly delicate touch - their nests and young hatchlings are highly vulnerable to predators