A dedicated anti-poaching ranger – who was out on rhino patrol with his dog – was tragically mauled to death on Sunday morning, after being ambushed by a rogue lion in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.
Respected Kobus Marais, 46, – described as a “wildlife warrior” by his distraught colleagues – fell victim to a hungry predator which had been lying in wait for him.
Kobus’ two fellow patrollers had driven ahead to lay a training scent for Kobus’s patrol dog Heily to track, unaware that their colleague was being stalked by the starving lion.
When they heard his screams for help they raced back through the bush and found the lion on top of him. They opened fire, killing the lion with several shots.
Although Kobus had been armed, it is believed that he didn’t see the lion until it was too late. The experienced ranger was mauled by the lion’s claws and bitten a number of times. He sadly suffered great blood loss and succumbed to his wounds.
Kobus’ Belgian Malinois patrol dog was found nearby, uninjured but clearly fearful.
A spokesman for the Pilanesberg National Park near Johannesburg said:
“Kobus was a true wildlife warrior and was loved by all his fellow patrollers and all our staff.
“He was out with his K9 on patrol with two rhino protection officers who were laying a track for his dog when the attack happened in the east of the park by a fence.
“Unbeknown to Marais a very thin and poor condition lion was probably laying in wait.
“He was armed but for whatever reason the gun was not fired in the attack.
“Marais tragically succumbed to his wounds and the emaciated lion was shot dead during the incident and then taken to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute for a post mortem.
“The rhinos here at Pilanesberg have lost a true friend and conservation has lost a true wildlife warrior. To Lottie Marais, his wife, we express our most heartfelt condolences.
“Kobus, you have left a void in so many lives and you will be greatly missed. Thank you for your contribution. We are so, so sorry.You paid the highest price.”
A Rhino 911 conservation group spokesperson said: “Kobus was a gentle and kind soul and a true conservation warrior, and the rhinos have lost a brave and dedicated guardian.”
Ecotourism graduate student Lauren L’Ange, 27, who photographed Kobus with his latest K9 dog Heily said:
“He was dedicated to what he did and was an excellent game ranger.
“He spent so much time out protecting rhinos and also taking Heily out into schools and to meet the public to teach them about the conservation of rhinos and the work he did.
“His wife Charlotte is the representative here of Copenhagen Zoo and they sponsored and trained Heily for Kobus when his last K9 Dexter unexpectedly passed away in 2016.
“Kobus was such a dedicated ranger and lived for his rhinos and his work.It is a totally tragic way for him to lose his life.Lottie will be so devastated to lose him.”
Old male lion forced out of the pride
A South African wildlife expert explained: “When males become too old to be the dominant member of the pride they are forced out of the pride by the younger stronger males.
“Unable to hunt for themselves properly they become emaciated and begin to starve and then they take risks to try and feed themselves which ordinarily they would never take.
“That is what probably happened here in that an elderly lion, no longer able to catch its own prey, realised that its very survival depended on making a kill on a human being.
“It is extremely unusual but you have to remember lions do not play by any rules,” he said.
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