Hero anti-poaching ranger mauled to death by starving lion while saving rhinos in South African national park

AN anti-poaching ranger has been viciously mauled and bitten to death by a starving lion in a safari park while protecting rhinos.

Kobus Marais – described as a “wildlife warrior” – fell victim to a desperate predator thatwas lying in wait for him at Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.

His two fellow patrollers had driven ahead to lay a training scent for Kobus’s dog Heily to track, unaware their colleague was being stalked by a rogue lion.

When they heard the 46-year-old's screams for help they raced back through the bush and found the  beast on top of the ranger and opened fire, killing it with several shots.

They rushed to help the stricken ranger, who was armed but is believed not to have seen the lion as his weapon was not fired.

The experienced ranger had been horrifically mauled by the lion’s claws and bitten a number of times by its powerful jaws.

He was so badly injured in Saturday’s morning’s attack he would have died instantly, Pilanesberg National Park spokesman Piet Nel said.

“Unbeknown to Marais a very thin and poor condition lion was probably lying in wait,” said Nel.

"He was armed but for whatever reason the gun was not fired in the attack.”

The spokesman said Kobus and emaciated lion which was in the unexpectedly in the area and “was clearly taken by surprise”.

"He had suffered a very bad bite and I think it is fair to say it would have been instant.”

He said a post mortem was carried out on the lion appears to be nothing underlying to cause it to attack apart from old age.

"It would have been unable to hunt properly and would have been starving,” he explained.

Nel paid tribute to Kobus saying he “has left a void in so many lives” and “you will be greatly missed”.

“Kobus was a true wildlife warrior and was loved by all his fellow patrollers and all our staff here.

"Kobus was one of our strong guys and extremely dedicated and put so much effort into training the other rangers to be the best and we are all grieving for his loss. 

“The rhinos here at Pilanesberg have lost a true friend and conservation has lost a true wildlife warrior.”

A spokesman for the Rhino 911 conservation group said: “Kobus was a gentle and kind soul and a true conservation warrior and the rhinos have lost a brave and dedicated guardian”.

Experts say when male lions 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 feed themselves ordinarily they would never take.

An elderly lion no longer able to catch its own prey will realise that its survival depended on making a kill on a human being.

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