Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
Former Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) board chair Richard Leakey has denied claims that he is to blame for the death of 11 black rhinos translocated to Tsavo National Park and instead implicated World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Dr Leakey (pictured) blamed the deaths on WWF, saying the fund pushed the government to translocate the rhinos despite sufficient evidence that water at the Tsavo was saline.
He claimed WWF wanted the translocation done to justify some donor funding and attract more.
Appearing before National Assembly committee on Environment, chaired by Kareke Mbiuki, Leakey faulted Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala for claiming he (Leakey) interfered with the translocation because the minister declined to renew his tenure at the KWS board. Leakey added that he actually declined President Uhuru Kenyatta’s request to have his term extended by three years on health grounds.
“A minister can make an allegation and I cannot stop it. However, there is no truth in it. In my tenure, I attended four meetings a year yet the board met more than 12 times. How I interfered with the translocation still puzzles me,” he said.
He also denied claims he blocked Tourism PS Margaret Mwakema from attending board meetings. He said the PS only attended one board meeting and when she sought to “force” members to debate her agenda the chair declined, saying it was not part of the day’s agenda, adding that WWF waited for him to exit from KWS to push their agenda.
He said WWF was aware that for the period he was at the helm, translocation would not take place until the board of KWS was sure of the conditions at the Tsavo were favourable for wildlife.
However, he said, immediately after his exit, WWF ignored the board’s directions and instead pushed for the translocation of the wildlife from Nakuru and Nairobi parks.
“WWF wanted a success on their books to please donors. They pushed for the translocation yet they were aware they were aware of how the water was but they did not believe us,” he said.