EXPIRED: 08/12/10 – Steve Kok, 71, loved wildlife. The local herd of buffalo in the Charara region of Zimbabwe, where he lived with his wife Trish, numbered 650 animals a few years ago, but due to poaching activity the number is now closer to 65. These dwindling numbers concerned Kok, who had been in the area for 13 years. So he decided to do something about it.
He was a familiar sight over the last several years getting up at 5am, day after day, every day, 365 days a year, to walk the paths around Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe with his little dog. The pair would scour the bush for wire snare traps that poachers had set the previous night. Kok would trip them so they couldn’t maim or kill any more animals. If he found an animal that was caught, he’d call in for veterinary assistance.
And so it was when he drove off into the Zimbabwean bush late this afternoon to try and locate a wounded buffalo who had lost one of its legs in a snare trap. Only this time, Kok never came back.
In order to trip more traps he raised enough money earlier this year to buy an offroad bike. He estimated it improved his progress a lot – he could cover more ground – and save a lot more animals. Unfortunately, he would have to leave his dog at home.
And so it was as he tracked this injured buffalo. A buffalo is one of the most aggressive animals in the African bush. A wounded buffalo is a lot worse. This one had partially severed its leg while tearing itself free from the poacher snare. An alert was sent to local communities that the animal would be highly dangerous. Kok had been searching for it for about a week.
When Steve didn’t return by Friday morning, a search party went out and found his bike on a powerline road not far from Charara. They located his gored body about 160 meters away. He had obviously been charged and thrown from his bike.
Steve never got paid for his troubles. He never looked for recognition. He did it because he loved animals and was concerned that poachers were getting the upper hand. If he didn’t do something, who would?
And now that he’s gone. Who will?
Park rangers found the buffalo the following day and put it out of its misery.