Published: Tue, July 17, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Endangered Black Rhinos Die From Salt Poisoning During Relocation

Endangered Black Rhinos Die From Salt Poisoning During Relocation

The care of rhinos, both white and black, is a priority for the Kenyan authorities because of the dramatic decline in the population, which in 1980 dropped to just 400 individuals.

In moving a group of 11 rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi last month, the Kenya Wildlife Service said it hoped to boost the population there.

Preliminary investigations suggest the rhinos suffered from salt poisoning as they adapted to water with higher saline levels than they were accustomed to, according to tourism and wildlife minister Najib Balala.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

Eight critically endangered black rhinoceroses died after being moved from parks near Kenya's capital to a sanctuary in a national park in the country's southeast, the government said Friday.

Ms Kahumbu said the translocation could only be described as a complete disaster and sought reassurances that best practices in wildlife translocation would be adopted in future to prevent more deaths.

"Disciplinary action will definitely be taken" if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff, the wildlife ministry said.

The number of African black rhinos dropped almost 98 percent from 1960 to 1995 before conservation efforts began to slowly rebuild the population.

"It's surprising because Kenya Wildlife Service has conducted many successful large scale translocation of rhinos before. It requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals".

Kenyans are now taking the government to task over the mishap. They will be closely monitored and given fresh water. "We need to know what went wrong so that it never happens again", she added.

In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill. An additional three animals were to join them soon, but Balala said he had immediately suspended the transfer operations.

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