An experienced ranger and conservationist died on Saturday morning after being unexpectedly attacked by a lion while laying a trail out for his dog in the Pilanesberg in North West.
Kobus Marais, a member of the Pilanesberg National Park K9 unit and veteran in the anti-poaching field who was also a dog handler, was described by North West Parks Board acting conservation officer, Pieter Nel, as an “extremely committed” ranger who was experienced and passionate.
“Kobus, being out on a Saturday laying out a trail for his dog, was a testament to his commitment. He was around for quite some time, and served for at least 12 years.”
Nel said on this fateful day, Marais was out on a fence patrol with other anti-poaching rangers in a vehicle. The vehicle stopped for Marais to lay a trail out for his dog, and the vehicle continued on, remaining close by.
“After a while, they heard screaming and responded immediately. They found Kobus at the scene with a lion attacking him.”
Nel said the lion was shot but Marais was mortally wounded and died at the scene.
No other rangers were injured and they would all receive counselling.
The area where Marais and his fellow rangers were patrolling is known to be a “Big Five area”, Nel said, full of dangerous animals. He said rangers regularly encountered dangerous creatures, but were all armed and experienced.
Marais was also armed but he was “surprised”, Nel said, and did not have time to reach for his gun.
“All security protocols were followed, but the matter is still being investigated. This is also to refine our security protocols,” Nel said.
The lion’s carcass was sent to Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in Tshwane for a post-mortem assessment. Nel said this was required because fences surrounding the area where Marais was attacked were designed to deter lions and other animals.
He explained that the lion that attacked Marais was “not supposed to be that close to the fence”.
The post-mortem will also reveal if the lion had any underlying condition which could have caused the aggression towards Marais, Nel added.
The Pilanesberg National Park and Wildlife Trust penned an emotional tribute to Marais on social media on Sunday.