NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 19 – The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is Thursday set to display horns of nine rhinos that died at the Tsavo East National Park last week after translocation.
The parading of the eighteen horns is in line with a directive issued on Tuesday by the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, when he gave an update on the unprecedented deaths of the nine rhinos which were among eleven translocated to Tsavo last month.
Balala had assured that all the ivory had been secured awaiting transportation to the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.
“There’s a protocol for transportation ivory from one station to another. I’ve directed KWS to begin the process so that the media can come and verify this ivory,” he said during a media briefing at the KWS base on arrival from an inspection tour at the Tsavo East National Park.
Balala said all the horns had electronic chips and could therefore be verified against the KWS database.
“The beauty is that all these horns have transmitters and electronic chips so we can actually verify that they belong to the rhinos that died,” he revealed.
The CS also gave an assurance that the remaining two rhinos out of the eleven translocated to the Tsavo were safe and had not shown signs of ill-health.
“We’ve confirmed this morning that the two surviving rhinos are in good health. One was seen in Maungu yesterday (Monday) and the other was around the sanctuary that had been set up for them this morning,” Balala said.
The tourism and wildlife chief also announced the constitution of a multi-agency team to probe the deaths of the nine rhinos.
The team to be headed by an officer form the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is expected to present a report to Balala on Monday.
According to CS Balala, the team will also include a tourism ministry official, and two veterinary officers from the University of Nairobi and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
In the interest of a tamperproof investigation, Balala told the media that he had directed reports by the DCI-led team and the government chemist investigating the deaths of the rhinos be presented exclusively to him.
“All those reports should not come to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), they should be brought to me. KSW have to withdraw because if we want an independent investigation, it is important that KSW is not involved,” Balala ordered.
On Friday, Capital FM News broke the unfortunate news of the demise of eight rhinos out of eleven that had been moved to Tsavo National Park; eight having been relocated from the Nairobi National Park and six from the Nakuru National Park.
A total of fourteen rhinos had been earmarked for relocation.
Following the uncommon deaths, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife issued a statement suspending the relocation exercise which was being undertaken by the KWS in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Although preliminary reports point to high salinity of water as the probable cause of the deaths of the nine translocated rhinos, CS Balala said the probe team will particularly seek to establish if there was negligence of the part of officers managing the translocation exercise.
According to Balala, KWS wardens at the Tsavo National Park said the nine rhinos that died had registered an increased uptake of water, signaling abnormal dehydration rates.
Similar exercises in the past have recorded impressive success rates with only eight mortalities out of 149 rhinos relocated between 2005 and 2017.
Official records have also shown high success rates in the recent months with a single mortality being reported out of 74 rhinos relocated between July 2017 and February 2018.