We’re deeply saddened to learn of the the fate of the animals translocated to East Tsavo in Kenya in recent weeks. Today, we learned that the last of the 11 rhinos, which was attacked by lions, has died.
The International Rhino Foundation is encouraged that the government, and the people, of Kenya seem to be taking this very seriously. We welcome Kenya’s commitment to an impartial, transparent evaluation by qualified international experts. The display of 18 horns from 9 of the animals that were killed to demonstrate that there was no collusion involved.
The initial investigation attributed the deaths to stress, which in this case also included starvation, proliferation of respiratory tract bacteria, gastric ulcers and gastritis.
Why Do Rhino Translocations?
Translocation is an important tool to help increase and manage wildlife populations and, in Africa in particular, move rhinos from unsafe to safer areas where they can be protected from poaching. Translocations need to be well planned and carried out by experienced, competent people.
There are always present risks, but to lose every single animal is a translocation is unprecedented. Kenya now has the distinction of losing more rhinos in this translocation than they lost in the whole of 2017 to poaching.
The Kenyan Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism has suspended six officers involved in the translocations for negligence, with disciplinary action pending further review. It is our understanding that pre-translocation studies, including food and water quality evaluations, were not fully considered before the animals were moved. Identifying adequate food and good quality water sources for the animals to survive is basic, standard procedure.
Dr. Richard Leakey, former Chairman of Board of the Kenya Wildlife Service stated that the translocations were discussed three times during his tenure as board chair – and on each occasion the board instructed Kenya Wildlife Service management not to go ahead with these translocations until the issues about quality of food and water quality could be addressed.
Like you, we’re heartbroken and we’re outraged about these events but the facts of the situation are still unfolding. What we know for sure is that there is a lot of finger-pointing, blame deflection, and, of course, lots of opinions. We don’t yet have all the information. The conservation community anxiously awaits the results of the independent investigation now underway and we would like to see those responsible adequately answer the questions.