Eight black rhinos (Diceros bicornis), a sub-species that is in grave danger of going extinct, died after moving to a new reserve in the south of Kenya, announced the Kenyan government on Friday. These eight dead animals were among 11 black rhinos that had been moved from the National Parks in Nairobi and Nakuru to the one in Tsavo East in June.
The ‘preliminary investigations’ suggest that the eight black rhinos could possibly have died from ‘salt poisoning’ after drinking water in their new environment. The high levels of salt in the waters of the Tsavo East park probably dehydrated the animals, pushing them to drink more. A complete investigation has been ordered and the results will be published next week.
‘Disciplinary action will definitely be taken if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff,’ said the wildlife minister. Moving endangered animals, which have to be asleep while travelling, to a new habitat, is not without risks. However, animals dying during this type of operation is rare.
According to the minister of Tourism, out of the 149 rhinos moved to Kenya in this way between 2005 and 2017, only eight have died. Also, between July 2017 and February 2018, 74 specimens had to be detained to be marked and only one death was recorded.
5,500 black rhinos in the world
‘Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,’ Kahumbu, director of the Wildlife Direct organization said to National Geographic.
‘We need to know what went wrong so that it never happens again.’
The three surviving rhinos have been moved to another sanctuary and they are, according to a press release on Facebook from the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism ‘safe and sound’. There are overall fourteen rhinos which had to be moved to the Tsavo East park. The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala ordered the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) to ‘immediately suspend the ongoing translocation of black rhinos following the death of eight of them.’
These operations are trying to protect black rhinos whose future is gravely in danger. According to the non-profit organization Save the Rhinos, there are less than 5,000 black rhinos in the world, with 750 being found in Kenya, says the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The reason behind this decline is poaching. Poachers take the rhinos horns for their so-called medicinal properties, which for decades has driven the black market in China and Vietnam.
The death of eight rhinos is a hard blow for those trying to protect this sub-species.
‘This is a major conservation tragedy, not just for Kenya but for all rhinos,’ concluded Paula Kahumbu.