Kenya: Balala Constitutes Multi-Agency Team to Probe Deaths of 9 Rhinos

Nairobi — The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has constituted a multi-agency team to probe the deaths of nine out of eleven rhinos translocated to the Tsavo East National Park in Voi last month.

Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala who visited the park on Tuesday announced the team will be headed by an officer from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

The team whose report is set to be released on Monday next week will also include a tourism ministry official, and two veterinary officers from the University of Nairobi and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.

Balala however assured that the remaining two rhinos were being monitored closely adding that they had not shown any sign of ill-health.

"We've confirmed this morning that the two surviving rhinos are in good health. One was seen in Maungu yesterday and the other was around the sanctuary that had been set up for them this, this morning," the CS said.

In the interest of a tamperproof investigation Balala told the media on Tuesday that he had directed all reports by probe teams 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 remarked.

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 unprecedented 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.

Balala said all the eighteen horns of the nine rhinos that died at the Tsavo East National Park had been secured awaiting transportation to KWS headquarters.

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