In Summary
  • Senior KWS officials remained tight-lipped, even as local and international conservationists mounted pressure on the agency to take responsibility for the animals' deaths.

  • The eight were part of a herd of 11 recently moved recently due to overcrowding in the Nairobi and Nakuru parks, which was hindering breeding.

  • The newly established, 100-square-kilometre Tsavo East Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya’s oldest and largest national park was expected to be more conducive for breeding.

Four days after eight black rhinos died at the Tsavo East National Park following their translocation from the Nairobi and Nakuru national parks, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has yet to address the matter publicly, raising suspicion over what happened.

Senior KWS officials remained tight-lipped, even as local and international conservationists mounted pressure on the agency to take responsibility for the animals' deaths.

The eight were part of a herd of 11 recently moved recently due to overcrowding in the Nairobi and Nakuru parks, which was hindering breeding. The newly established, 100-square-kilometre Tsavo East Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya’s oldest and largest national park was expected to be more conducive for breeding.

GLOBAL MEDIA

The programme targeting 14 rhinos was jointly conducted by KWS and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) at a cost of Sh100 million.

The ranger who oversaw the translocation refused to talk about the issue, while Mr Linus Kariuki, the Kenya Rhino programme coordinator, said he was on leave, only days after the latest batch of rhinos was moved from the Nakuru National Park.

KWS spokesperson Paul Gathitu could not be reached for comment.

Conservation activists Paula Kahumbu and Chris Diaz expressed dismay at the tragedy, which made headlines in the global media, including Fox News, CNN and the Associate Press.

MULTI-MILLION

National Geographic described the deaths as “a major step back”, which “undermines years of conservation efforts” of endangered animal species.

Translocating rhinos is a high-risk and delicate operation that requires wide-ranging studies before implementation. Besides, there are only 745 black rhinos left in the country.

And when it is sponsored, it is thoroughly scrutinised. Which brings to the fore the question: Was the multi-million move pointless?

KWS suspects that the animals died from salt poisoning after drinking highly saline water in their new surroundings. But the question is whether the agency conducted thorough tests to determine that the new environment was suitable for the animals? And, why did it move so many animals at once? Or was foul play involved, and if so, who could have done it and why?

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