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Balala suspends 6 KWS officials as report on rhino deaths points to gross negligence

Balala says the suspensions were as a result of negligence/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has suspended six Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers over negligence following the deaths of 10 out of eleven rhinos translocated to the Tsavo East National Park in June.

Among those suspended on Thursday is the service’s Deputy Director in-charge of Biodiversity, Research and Monitoring, Samuel Kasiki, who according to a report tabled by a six-member probe team failed to coordinate research-line departments at the KWS leading to poor decision-making.

Balala noted with regret the inaction of the sanctioned KWS officers who failed to take appropriate action despite a finding in February that two boreholes sank at the holding area where the rhinos were to be relocated in June had high salinity.

According to the report presented to Balala, the two boreholes drilled by Davis and Shirtliff with the funding of World Wide Fund for Nature had salinity levels of 26,200 and 5,600 parts-per million respectively.

A nearby spring had a salinity level of 6,500 parts-per million, the investigation showed.

“He did not coordinate line departments and provide best advice on best science on the management of the translocation exercise failed to play his role as expected,” Balala announced during a media briefing Thursday when he released the findings of an inquest into the deaths of the rhinos.

The drilling company was reported to have advised the park management to undertake continuous pumping so as to monitor the salinity levels in the two boreholes ahead of the relocation of the rhinos – eight from the Nairobi National Park and six from the Nakuru National Park – advice KWS officers managing the translocation overlooked.

“The independent inquiry shows that there were areas of clear negligence that occurred at the Tsavo which include poor conditioning, poor coordination, and poor communication by KWS staff at the Tsavo,” Balala disclosed.

Others suspended pending disciplinary action are Francis Gakuya, the Head of Veterinary and Capture Services, Isaac Leekolol, Head of Capture Services, Felix Mwangangi the Senior Warden Tsavo East National Park, Mohammed Omar, Head of Ecological Monitoring, and Fredrick Odock Lala, Senior Scientist at the Tsavo East National Park.

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Balala also reorganized KWS’s management reverting Acting Director General Julius Kimani to his former position of Director of Parks and Reserves with Charles Musyoki set to take over as Director General on an acting capacity.

Patrick Omondi was appointed Director Biodiversity Division.

According to the independent inquiry team by led by Benson Omondi, an officer from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the 10 rhinos died due to Multiple Stress Syndrome fueled by the uptake of saline water at the park.

The probe team reported that the rhinos had as a result of taking saline water suffered acute dehydration leading to their deaths.

The inquest also reported “starvation, proliferation of opportunistic bacteria in upper respiratory tract (Pasteurella species), gastric ulcers and gastritis” as triggers of the deaths.

Other members of the inquiry team were Prof Peter Karuri (Professor of Veterinary Pathology, University of Nairobi), Dr Kuria Gachungia (Officer in Charge Pathology lab, Directorate of Veterinary Services), Dr David Zimmerman (Senior Veterinary Manager, Veterinary Services of SanParks), Dr Patrick Omondi (Acting Director, Research & Innovation, State Department for Wildlife), and Chief Inspector of Police Peter Thiane Kilemi (in-charge Criminal Intelligence Bureau).


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