May the wind be beneath his wings

■ Rico Pentz, holding a young female owl he’d saved after she had eaten poison in 2021. After a week in his care, she was released where she had been found. Rico succumbed to a snake bite on Sunday.PICTURE:CAROLYN FROST
■ Rico Pentz, holding a young female owl he’d saved after she had eaten poison in 2021. After a week in his care, she was released where she had been found. Rico succumbed to a snake bite on Sunday.PICTURE:CAROLYN FROST

A young man with the heart of a lion, who touched so many lives through his passion and courage for wildlife rehabilitation, is no longer with us.

Rico Pentz passed away on Sunday January 21, after being bitten by a cobra the previous Wednesday.

Bolander has a long history with Rico, as we first met him years ago through his work rescuing (primarily) snakes, but also many other wild creatures in need of help, or removal from private properties.

His life was dedicated to animals in distress, and there was no occasion, day or night, where Rico was not prepared to get in his car and head out to face whatever situation awaited him.

We dedicated our front page story to one of his rescues, where an owl had consumed poison, and Rico caught and rehabilitated the bird, and then released it on the same property in Forest Hills, up in Spanish Farm, Somerset West, where it had been found.

I recall him telling me that, as soon as he’d had a chance to examine the owl and smell her breath, he’d established that it was a case of poison ingestion…. making it a race against time.

Just a week later, I was on the scene to witness the heart-warming release, and it was an opportunity to talk to Rico about the dire effects of toxins that birds of prey (and other mammalian predators) inadvertently consume, often in cases where poison has been placed out for rats.

Rico devoted his life to animal rescue, and a huge diversity of creatures passed through his capable hands, like caracal kittens (who’s mother had been run over), an adult caracal inside a house (first thought to be a spotted genet by the homeowners), a Cape Clawless otter stuck in a toilet, countless snakes in homes and gardens, hurt or abandoned or abused dogs and cats, birds of all kinds, and many others.

It was when I took copies of the article in Bolander to Rico’s mother Rosa’s smallholding in Raithby (“Wildlife whisperer: Poisoned owl saved, countelss wildlife rescued”, January 27, 2021), that I’d laid eyes on a feisty little kitten saved in Macassar… needless to say, Ruthi came home with me, and is a joy every day, and a great reminder of the work done by wildlife warriors.

Farm Paws NGO does work of incalculable importance in that area (and has also featured on many occasions in Bolander), and co-founder Attie Hofmeyr shared about how much Rico had helped them over the years, not just with wild animals, but also with dipping of dogs.

Rosa has been my go-to person with birds I’ve found in need of help, and just a couple of weeks ago I took a large holding cage to her, and saw all the creatures currently in their care, from newborns to oldies.

Rico Pentz was 39 years old, and is survived by his mother Rosa, step-dad Martin, step-siblings Marlize and Martin; his life-partner Eva Nelipot, three step-children; and his father Peter, sister Jacqueline, and brother Mark, who live in America.

The date of his memorial service will be on Rico’s Facebook page, as soon as it has been determined.