Future of lions uncertain after deadly attack in S. Africa

By Eleanor Momberg
April 22 2007 at 09:24AM

The Krugersdorp Game Reserve has been closed until police complete their investigation into the killing of the reserve’s owner, Dirk Brink, by a pride of lions on Friday.

A reserve official said yesterday that Brink had driven into the lions’ enclosure in his bakkie, apparently to take photographs to test a new camera. It appeared that he had got out of his vehicle, as the door was still open.

Five lions had attacked him and dragged him into nearby bushes, where he was mauled and partially eaten before the lions were scared off by the sound of gunshots.

Reserve staff have been instructed not to speak to anyone about the fatal attack, saying only that a press conference will be held “sometime next week”.

However, one official did say that no decision had yet been taken on the future of the lions.

“That is obviously a matter that is on the table – whether they must be put down or shipped out. It is a decision that must be made much higher up and nothing has been decided yet,” the man, who did not want to be named, said.

Superintendent Eugene Opperman, a police spokesperson, said they had turned down a request on the scene from reserve officials to kill the lions. This was because this task was not their responsibility.

Lions were a protected species. Any decision on the future of the animals would therefore have to be made in conjunction with conservation authorities.

Yesterday Brink’s wife Elna, son Derek and daughter Liezel, who had heard about the attack within an hour, were trying to come to terms with what had happened.

Paramedics said when they arrived on the scene at 12.30pm, several rangers were trying to chase the lions away from Brink. The police arrived shortly afterwards.

Mark Stokoe, a Netcare 911 spokesperson, said on Friday that there was nothing they could have done: “The game rangers on the scene could not get the lions away and it was too dangerous to approach, so after more than an hour we still didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” he said.

Rangers and police only managed to clear the lions from the area by 2.30pm. Police said they had fired shots into the air to scare the lions off. It was only then that paramedics were able to get close to Brink, who was confirmed dead.

Brink is not the first owner of a lion reserve to be killed by lions in his care. In 2005 Lourens van Straaten, the owner of the Addo Croc and Lion Ranch in the Eastern Cape, was attacked and killed by lions while repairing an electric fence in their enclosure.

In March 2005, a Pretoria high-school boy was mauled by a pair of lions at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve near Krugersdorp. Dane Kieser suffered serious injuries to his legs, arms and chest

A man was killed by lions near the Phalaborwa Gate in the Kruger National Park in the same year, and two game farm security guards were mauled to death by lions at a lodge near Hennenman in the Free State in August 2006.

In March this year, Gemma Huggins, an Australian embassy employee, was attacked and seriously injured by a lioness at the Lion and Cheetah Park outside the Zimbabwe capital, Harare. Huggins has since been discharged from hospital.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Sunday Independent on April 22, 2007

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id =13&art_id=vn20070422085839105C469473

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