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December 16, 2018

Wildlife agency suspends darting after rhino death

KWS personnel on board a helicopter try to tranquillise a female black rhino before transporting it as part of a rhino translocation exercise In the Nairobi National Park, Kenya, June 26/ Reuters
KWS personnel on board a helicopter try to tranquillise a female black rhino before transporting it as part of a rhino translocation exercise In the Nairobi National Park, Kenya, June 26/ Reuters

The Kenya Wildlife Service has suspended unnecessary darting of species. A probe into the death of nine black rhinos that had been moved to Tsavo East National Park Rhino Sanctuary is ongoing.

Tourism CS Najib Balala said senior officials from the DCI, ministry, University of Nairobi Veterinary department and the Agriculture ministry are investigating the deaths.

The ninth rhino died on Tuesday.

Preliminary investigations by KWS veterinary teams attribute the deaths to salt poisoning as a result of drinking the park’s water on arrival in the new environment. Further relocation has so far been stopped.

Balala said he had been promised by KWS acting director general Julius Kimani that no darting will be done unless it is clinically necessary.

“They will inform me immediately on specific species and why it is necessary. They cannot do it without me sanctioning those actions,” Balala said at the KWS headquarters, Lang’ata. The CS said it will be a while before normal routine continues. Balala overflew the newly established Tsavo East National Park Rhino Sanctuary.

He was with KWS board chairman John Waithaka, Kimani, and International Union for Conservation of Nature regional director Ali Kaka.

Balala urged the KWS to keep off the investigation, saying he will be the first to receive the report before releasing it to the public. To avoid questions being raised over the horns of the nine, Balala said 18 horns with transmitters and chips will be brought to the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.

Balala said rhino translocation and immobilisation for management has been successful, with low death rates over the years. He said between 2005 and 2017, some 149 rhinos were translocated with eight deaths. Further,74 rhinos have been immobilised for ear-notching. One death was recorded between July 2017 and February.

Balala said several hundreds have been successfully immobilised for clinical interventions. On June 26, the first three rhinos, two females and a male, were captured at Nairobi National Park and translocated successfully. They were held in bomas at the sanctuary for acclimatisation.

The second capture conducted on June 29 was also successfully. Three rhinos, two females and a male, were captured.

 

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