Judy Akuma and James Wakahiu
Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala has cast aspersions on the sincerity of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) over the death of nine black rhinos last week.
While demanding a full explanation on the death of the rhinos that were being translocated to Tsavo National Park, Balala castigated the KWS for taking too long to report to him the incident.
“Though I want to believe there was no professional negligence, KWS has some questions to answers, particularly on why they took too long to inform me and the public. Translocation of rhinos has always been successful and that is why we have black rhions in both Tsavo East and West National Parks. KWS has the capacity, but on this incident, there are more questions than answers,” he said.
Consequently, Balala has directed all investigation reports from the government chemist and post mortem results on the death of the rhinos be presented to him first before KWS accesses them to rule out any foul play.
Addressing the press at KWS headquarters in Nairobi yesterday, the CS said independent investigations are ongoing and his ministry has involved the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to ascertain the cause of the animals’ death.
Balala said so far nine out of the 11 black rhinos that were translocated to Tsavo have died. He said the DCI will investigate among other things the cause of the death, whether it was indeed due to saline water, negligence or if it has anything to do with the professional conduct of the KWS officials who were handling the exercise.
The CS said a comprehensive postmoterm report will be received on July 23 and will be made public. He also ordered a halt to the translocation of the rhinos until the issue has been finalised.
Greenpeace Africa’s executive director Njeri Kabeberi has called for a speedy and thorough probe over the deaths.
In a statement, Kabeberi said the death is another major setback for conservation, happening only a few months after the last remaining male northern white rhino on the planet died in March and urged KWS and World Wide Fund for Nature to learn from this disaster and put in place measures to prevent this from recurring.