The translocation that went wrong

All the Rhinos, but one, that were recently taken from Kenya’s Nakuru park to Tsavo East have died – and the remaining Rhino has been injured by lions.

In what is going to be one of the most devastating conservation experiment in Kenya, the death of 10 Rhinos at the hands of scientists has put to shame the Kenya Wildlife Service and other international bodies including Wild Wildlife Fund involved in the translocation of the Rhinos from Nakruru to Tsavo East national Park

On Thursday morning, the Cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala admitted that one of the two surviving black rhinos died bringing the death toll to 10.

A few hours later, a leading conservationist Paula Kahumbu took to Facebook account to express her disgust: “It is tragedy on so many levels, political, institutional, and psychological. As a Kenyan Conservationist I regret not speaking out to question the translocation in the first place. We owe all Kenyans, and lovers of Kenya and rhinos a great apology for this disaster. Feeling sick and concerned that this disaster is being used by people claiming to be conservationists, for political and financial ends. Conservationists must not be cowed…Shame shame shame.”

An inquest carried out found that water salinity was the cause of death of the rhinos, with investigators further noting that the animals had been stressed due to acute dehydration.

The report also established negligence of Kenya Wildlife Service staff manning the sanctuary where the rhinos had been translocated as they failed to report unusual change in animal behaviour in time.

Other conservationist expressed similar outrage: “An appalling wildlife disaster. Those involved should be sacked. Of course, could it have been deliberate? For their horn?. Whatever the reason, this is a very dark episode in wildlife ‘management’. And so so sad, bearing in mind what the species has gone through,” said Caroline Mason.

According to Balala, the remaining rhino is being monitored closely after suffering an attack from the lions at the park.

“Whoever is responsible must be punished harshly and KWS also has a case to answer. This is ridiculous and very unfair for the poor rhinos,” said Naz Musa.

Kenyans reacted with fury that the animals died due environmental and weather conditions:  “Are they serious with this stuff? Like we did not know the weather and environmental conditions of Tsavo East! This was not the sole project of KWS – how have other parties responded to this news. Including WWF Kenya and The Department of Tourism and Wildlife – We want to know what shake-ups are happening there,” said Salisha Chandra. “We want a strong KWS – not one that is compromised by pressures from external organizations!”

KWS officials suspended following the Rhino translocation debacle; Dr. Kasike, Dr. Francis Gakuya, Head of translocation, Dr. Isaac Lekorel, Felix Mwangangi senior warden Tsavo East, Dr. Mohammed Omar, Head of ecological team, and Fredrick Orara, Senior scientist Tsavo East

But WWF has maintained a studious silence on the matter – feigning lack of memory.


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