Leakey now blames Balala for rhino deaths

Former Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman Richard Leakey has accused Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala of overstepping his mandate in the botched rhino translocation that left 10 animals dead.

In a statement, Leakey said that during his three-year tenure at KWS, the issue of the Tsavo translocation came up three times.

“On each occasion, the board noted there was deep concern about lack of vegetation in sanctuary that could sustain rhino and the real issue of available and safe water,” said Leakey.

He said the board directed that no translocation should occur unless those two concerns were adequately addressed to the board’s satisfaction.

“Management was told a firm No,” he said.

Leakey, meanwhile, has opened a can of worms revealing the translocation was conducted without KWS board approval.

“Unfortunately, as of today, I am unaware of a new board and if there is one, as CS Balala implied in his press briefing, has it met?” Leakey, whose term ended in April, posed.

Apart from chairman, KWS does not have a substantive Director General after resignation of Kitili Mbathi in July last year.

He said the absence of a board for three months has left weighty decisions of the kind concerning discipline and direction entirely with Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.

“This is not provided for in the existing legislation governing KWS and its operations. It is unfortunate that the CS statement failed to reflect the fundamentals behind this tragedy and perhaps thus dig deeper into the real problems at KWS,” said Leakey.

On Thursday, Balala demoted acting Director General Julius Kimani and replaced him with Charles Musyoki who was in charge of Kenya Wildlife Service training institute in Naivasha. Kimani returns to his previous position as head of parks and reserves.

The drastic changes come in the wake of the deaths of 10 out of the 14 rhinos translocated from Nakuru and Nairobi national parks to a 100-square kilometre sanctuary at Tsavo East.

In the sweeping changes, Balala suspended top Kenya Wildlife Service scientists and wardens.

Among the affected were Dr Samwel Kasiki who was the Deputy Director Bio-diversity and chief scientist.

He has been replaced by Patrick Mondi from the parent ministry. Also suspended were Francis Gakuya who was head of veterinary and capture services, Mohamed Omar, head of ecology and Isaac Leekolol, a senior vet.

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