Rhino deaths prompt suspension of relocation programme


(Posted 28th May 2015)

The conservation fraternity in Kenya is in shock since news emerged yesterday that three of the Eastern Black rhinos which were relocated to the Sera Community Conservancy had died. Kenya Wildlife Service Corporate Communications Director Paul Udoto confirmed at the same time that the rest of the relocation programme, a further 11 rhinos were to follow, has been suspended for the time being while veterinarians and scientists are trying to make sense of the untimely death of three of these prized animals. The three were only transported to the Sera conservancy a week ago and initial post mortem results show that natural causes were to blame and that no foul play was even being considered.

Wrote Paul in his communication to this correspondent: ‘By Sunday 24th of May, 13 rhinos had already been successfully moved and released to their new home from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) and Lake Nakuru National Park. Six candidates from Nairobi National Park had been held back due to the wet conditions in the park. The translocation operation was planned to run for two weeks.

However, on Monday 25th of May the post-translocation monitoring team reported the death of two rhinos that had been captured from Lewa and released in Sera Conservancy on May 18th and 19th. Post-mortem by our veterinary team revealed the two rhino’s succumbed to complications arising from impaction in the lower gut. The third one succumbed to anesthetic complications during capture of at Lewa and efforts to resuscitate it did not bear fruit.

A team of veterinarians has been put on standby to undertake clinical monitoring of the remaining eleven translocated rhinos and to investigate the risk factors at Sera Conservancy that could have led to the two mortalities.

In the meantime has the Kenya Wildlife Service Director General in consultation with the Board of Trustees directed that the translocation exercise be put on hold for six months’.

The loss in the space of days of three of the endangered Eastern Black rhinos dealt a heavy blow and setback to rhino conservation and in particular relocation requests and plans will now be critically examined to ensure that no further such cases happen in the future.