, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 31 – Barely two weeks after the deaths of 10 rhinos translocated to the Tsavo East National Park, another one has been killed by poachers in Lake Nakuru National Park, raising concerns on the safety of the rare animals which are fast facing extinction.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confirmed the killing of the 12-year-old male black rhino Monday evening, saying the criminals were being sought.
The incident comes in the wake of Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala’s appearance before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday over the botched translocation of the rhinos to the Tsavo East National Park.
The failed operation conducted late in June resulted in the deaths of 10 out of 11 translocated rhinos; eight having been relocated from the Nairobi National Park and six from the Nakuru National Park.
A report released last Thursday by a team that probed the incident established gross negligence on the part of KWS after it emerged the animals died after suffering acute dehydration after drinking water with high salinity levels.
The report showed two boreholes drilled at the Tsavo 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.
The inquest also reported “starvation, proliferation of opportunistic bacteria in upper respiratory tract (Pasteurella species), gastric ulcers and gastritis” as triggers of the deaths.
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 fuelled by the uptake of saline water at the park.
Following publication of the report, Balala suspended six KWS officers over negligence citing their failure to act promptly to avert the rhino deaths.
Among those suspended were the service’s Deputy Director in-charge of Biodiversity, Research and Monitoring, Samuel Kasiki, who according to the report tabled by a six-member probe team failed to coordinate research-line departments at the KWS leading to poor decision-making.
“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.
“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,” he disclosed.
Other officials suspended were Francis Gakuya, the Head of Veterinary and Capture Services, Isaac Leekolol (Head of Capture Services), Felix Mwangangi (Senior Warden Tsavo East National Park), Mohammed Omar (Head of Ecological Monitoring), and Fredrick Odock Lala (Senior Scientist at the Tsavo East National Park).
Balala also reorganised 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 in an acting capacity.
Patrick Omondi was appointed Director Biodiversity Division.