Kenya: Balala Invited By Parliamentary Committee Over Death of Rhinos

Nairobi — A parliamentary committee on Environment has invited Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to appear before it Tuesday to shed light on the deaths of 10 black rhinos.

The National Assembly Environment and Natural Resources Committee dispatched the invite to Balala who has been largely blamed for overseeing the translocation that ultimately led to the demise of the rhinos.

Last week, Balala revealed that one of the two surviving black rhinos that had been translocated to Tsavo East National died, with now MPs keen to establish why the succession of deaths of the rhinos.

In a bid to absolve himself of any blame, Balala suspended six Kenya Wildlife Officers over what he described as negligence on their part, action that has however elicited fury from wildlife conservationists who termed the move as a knee jack reaction.

Among those suspended include 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 Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) leading to poor decision-making.

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.

For instance, the Kenya Veterinary Association faulted Balala for the suspension saying that the officers were not directly linked to the rhino's translocation process.

In a statement, the association's National Chairman Samuel Kahiriri stated that should if there was professional negligence on the part of the veterinarians, it can only be handled by the Kenya Veterinary Board (KVB) which is by law the body mandated to regulate them.

According to findings by 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.

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