HARARE, Zimbabwe – HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A wounded buffalo, known as one of the most aggressive animals in the African bush, gored veteran Zimbabwean conservationist Steve Kok to death, ending his years of dedication to saving wild animals from poachers' traps, colleagues said Tuesday. He was 71.
The buffalo had injured its leg, partially severing it, while tearing itself free from a poacher's wire snare. Kok joined park rangers in a weeklong search for the wounded animal near the lakeside resort of Kariba in northern Zimbabwe. An alert was sent to scattered communities that the buffalo was highly dangerous and the search was on to track it down, said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
Kok, seasoned in bushcraft and tracking, located the buffalo Thursday and it evidently charged him before he could call for help. His gored body was found Friday. Contrary to first reports from the remote district, it was not mutilated by jackals or other predators overnight.
The Charara state parkland is adjacent to lakeshore fishing communities and is no longer a suitable habitat for lions.
Park rangers closed in on the buffalo near the scene of Kok's death and shot it dead Saturday.
Rodrigues said Kok, a longtime volunteer for conservation groups and an active anti-poaching campaigner, patrolled the bush at first light most mornings, unraveling snares and calling in veterinary assistance for animals caught and hurt in traps as impoverished human settlements encroached in adjacent areas and poaching grew.
"Thanks to him many hundreds of animals were saved from agonizing death," said Rodrigues.
Kok had once told friends and family on his death his last wish was to be cremated on a pyre-like wood fire in the park he loved.
But fires are forbidden under National Parks regulations. Friends told The Associated Press on Tuesday that alternative cremation arrangements were being planned and his ashes would be sprinkled instead at a nearby river estuary he loved.
Rodrigues said Kok, a quiet and humble man, was "desperately concerned" by the dwindling number of animals on Lake Kariba's shores.
"His death is a huge blow for the wildlife in Kariba," Rodrigues said. "He is going to be very badly missed by humans and animals alike."