#KWS woes increase after rhino relocation disaster as devastating audit report is published by #PWC


(Posted 02nd August 2018)

Ten of the eleven relocated rhinos, which were taken from Nakuru and Nairobi national parks to a new location in Tsavo East, have been survived by a single animal which is recovering from a lion attack and presently enjoying special protection in the wake of the raging wave of dissent on social media which prompted Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to tell his critics they can ‘Go To Hell‘.
While the CS has since apologized to the public has his outburst of course not gone down well with his critics who think that political responsibility rests with him even though he has ruled out his resignation.
What is increasingly clear is that all monitoring mechanisms and emergency response measures seem to have broken down following the death of first a few and then some more, which should have immediately brought a team of vets to the scene to stand by in case of any further signs of one of the Eastern Black rhinos weakening.
After the 11th rhino was attacked by lions did the outrage by the Kenyan and international conservation fraternity grow even more after it became apparent that the last survivor was not accorded special 24/7 protection to prevent something like this to happen, inside a reportedly fenced off enclosure that is.
The blame game has obviously now started in earnest with no holds barred as already six Kenya Wildlife Service staff were suspended from duty last week while notably the WWF head office has not seen it fit to even make a statement of their own, now that all eleven translocated animals have died of unknown and mysterious causes.

Adding to the woes of KWS, which finds itself in its worst crisis since the body was launched in the mid 1980’s is an audit report released in April by global audit and business consultancy firm PWC, short for PriceWaterhouse, which gives a damning indictment on internal practices of the organization, control mechanisms and corporate governance.
The timing of the ‘leaking’ of the report at this stage is intriguing as it largely focuses on the former board and its chairman Dr. Richard Leakey whose broadside against KWS and the Ministry did not go down well with the Cabinet Secretary, triggering another blame game on a higher level.
Statements and counter statements have been filling the media over the past days, some notably feeble while others were obviously filled with venom and rancour.
What should remain in the foreground though is the death of 10 rhinos, with another one poached earlier in the week in Lake Nakuru National Park, all of the highly endangered Eastern Black species. One must learn from whatever mistakes were made, for future relocations and vis a vis general protection for rhinos in the country.

It is clear that the standards of Kenyan politics, if not in most African countries, do obviously not require a minister to take responsibility by resigning his or her post – other than in Europe for instance – but then must the question also be asked what or who would follow Balala.
Arguably the most qualified of ministers for the tourism portfolio – his predecessors never matching his level of competence and expertise – is Balala presently the best bet to get the tourism industry back into gear again AND kick KWS into shape, and hard kicks are needed as the organization is in meltdown and freefall. A collapse of KWS however must not happen and all necessary measures from the political leadership are now to be taken to first install a long overdue new board and chairman and then install a new Director General with deep insight and knowledge of what the wildlife sector requires to succeed. There are eminently qualified Kenyans available to tick the boxes and meet the criteria for such a job and a rapid search must unfold now to fill this critical post and then provide leadership and give the KWS staff renewed confidence of better days ahead to pull together and emerge from their presently almost frozen state.

Much of Kenya’s present tourism upswing is rooted in wildlife based tourism and unless wildlife is preserved and the protected areas maintained if not enlarged, in the face of a growing human / wildlife conflict, will a storm cloud hang over the future of Kenya’s tourism industry.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s key economic sectors and faltering is not an option for the country as everyone knows. This means that the next steps of the political leadership will be closely watched and whatever decisions are taken, they better be good and forward looking and not building a wagenburg in an exercise of self defence when real action is required.

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