Balala Suspends 6 KWS Officials as Lions Attack Last Surviving Rhino of Bungled Relocation

July 27, 2018

One of the last two surviving black rhinos that had been translocated from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru National Parks to the Tsavo East National has died bringing the death toll to 10.

Tourism CS Najib Balala made the revelation Thursday as he released findings of an inquest into the unprecedented deaths of the endangered black rhinos.

In a statement to newsrooms, the CS said he has suspended six officials of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS. He termed the grounds for the suspension as “unacceptable professional negligence,” adding that disciplinary action would be taken against them as deemed appropriate by the KWS board.

“The independent inquiry further showed there were areas of clear negligence that occurred post-translocation at the release site in Tsavo, especially in the holding BOMA at the sanctuary,” read the statement.

“These included poor co-ordination and communication among officers that were responsible for pre-translocation studies, including biomass assessments; environmental impact assessments and water quality assessments.”

The suspended officials are:

  1. Dr. Samuel Kasiki (Deputy Director Biodiversity, Research & Monitoring) – accused of poor co-ordination between various research line departments and its field and HQ staff, thereby hampering the proper decision making in execution of the exercise.
  2. Dr. Francis Gakuya (Head of Veterinary and Capture Services) – accused of failing to advise the Director-General to stop the Nakuru rhino translocation and showing total disregard to the welfare of the animals.
  3. Dr. Isaac Leekolol (Head of Capture Services) – accused of improper care of the animals at the holding BOMA with total disregard of the welfare of the animals.
  4. Mr. Felix Mwangangi (Senior Warden Tsavo East) – accused of showing total disconnect on the exercise between Tsavo East National Park management and the capture operation team at the sanctuary.
  5. Dr. Mohammed Omar (Head of Ecological Monitoring) – accused of failing to provide the salinity level monitoring to the translocation planning team.
  6. Fredrick Odock Lala (Senior Scientist Tsavo) – was responsible for advising and monitoring of all aspects of suitability of the area.

Balala further attributed the deaths of the rhinos to water salinity with investigators further noting that the animals had been stressed due to acute dehydration. The animals also suffered from a proliferation of opportunistic bacteria in upper respiratory tract (Pasteurella species), gastric ulcers, and gastritis.

The CS said the remaining rhino is being monitored closely after suffering an attack from the lions at the park.

“Unfortunately, the 11th rhino has been attacked by lions. Yesterday it was treated. So far we are monitoring this 11th rhino. It’s a sad situation,” he said.

“Even one rhino is a huge loss. So we are sad and we are disappointed in some of the officers who should have taken responsibility. They didn’t take their work seriously. They were casual in their job,” Najib Balala told a news conference.

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