KWS ‘ignored’ caution before rhino relocation

Wildlife service at pains to explain the death of eight animals, barely weeks after being transported to Tsavo

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) allegedly ignored a primary assessment report about revising plans to translocate the black rhinos from the twin national parks of Nairobi and Nakuru, it has emerged.

This comes as the mystery surrounding the death of eight of the 14 relocated rhinos deepened.

A source intimated that recommendations of the yet-to-be made public report could   have been ignored, endangering the animals.

“Assessments showed that water within the new sanctuary was saline. Similarly, the available food had been diminished by the several wildlife within the area,” intimated the source who spoke in anonymity.

This is despite Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala’s assurance on June 26,  when the government started moving the rhinos to Tsavo East that there was enough pasture at the sanctuary.

On Thursday, Balala directed KWS to immediately suspend the translocation exercise following the death of the eight. The CS said 11 rhinos had been relocated,  adding that the remaining three were closely being monitored by veterinary personnel and the park management.

The CS, in the statement, said the eight died as a result of salt poisoning on arrival at the new home.

“These findings are consistent with cases of salt poisoning in other animal species, indicating a challenge in translocated rhino adaptation to change from fresh water to saline water in the sanctuary. The high salt levels lead to dehydration that triggers thirst mechanism, resulting in excess water intake of the saline water that further exacerbates the problem,”Balala.

Balala has since instructed a senior veterinary pathologist from the University of Nairobi Prof Peter Gathumbi to carry out a probe into the deaths.

Gathumbi collected samples on July 12, days after KWS released confirmed the deaths. The rhinos were translocated late last month to protect them from poachers and control their population.

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