Sunday 18 November 2018

Rare rhinos die after being returned to wild

Kenya Wildlife Service workers watch a female black rhino cross a road during a transfer exercise. Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters
Kenya Wildlife Service workers watch a female black rhino cross a road during a transfer exercise. Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Khaled Kazziha

Eight critically endangered black rhinos are dead in Kenya after wildlife workers moved them from the capital to a new national park, the government said, calling the toll "unprecedented" in more than a decade of transfers.

Preliminary investigations point to salt poisoning as the rhinos tried to adapt to saltier water in their new home, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said, adding the animals likely became dehydrated and drank more salty water in a fatal cycle.

The ministry suspended the ongoing move of rhinos and said the surviving ones in the new park were being closely monitored.

The loss is "a complete disaster", said prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect.

Conservationists in Africa have been working hard to protect the black rhino sub-species from poachers targeting them for their horns to supply an illegal Asian market.

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.

According to WWF, black rhino populations declined dramatically in the 20th century, mostly at the hands of hunters. Between 1960 and 1995 numbers dropped by 98pc to fewer than 2,500.

The species has since rebounded, but remains extremely threatened.

Irish Independent

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