Published: Tue, July 17, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Critically endangered black rhinos die during relocation

Critically endangered black rhinos die during relocation

The conservationists say the deaths dealt a blow to the populations that were slowly increasing after 35 years of concerted efforts.

KWS, the government body responsible for the country's wildlife, has not commented on the deaths.

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 in a statement, describing how the animals likely became dehydrated and drank more salty water. Conservation efforts have seen that number rise to more than 5,000 in the world today. Text "NEWS" to 22840 and always receive verified news updates. 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.

According to a statement from Kenya's Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the rhinos were moved, or translocated, as part of a conservation initiative created to start a new population line. In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa almost half a century after it was wiped out there.

African Parks, a Johannesburg-based conservation group, said earlier this year that there are fewer than 25,000 rhinos in the African wild, of which about 20 percent are black rhinos and the rest white rhinos.

The Kenyan government is dealing with the devastating news that eight black rhinos died after they were moved to a new habitat in a bid to save the endangered species.

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Poachers hunt black rhinos for their horns, which are coveted for traditional Chinese medicinal practices and are displayed as status symbols.

"Generally, rhinos are the most intensively monitored animals not only in the country but also globally, from private conservancies to the rhino sanctuaries and national parks in the country, they remain iconic and symbolic animals", said Samuel Mutisya, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy head of wildlife. The translocation of the rhinos has since been stopped.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu of Kenyan-US wildlife organization WildlifeDirect said the loss was "a complete disaster".

"Moving rhinos is complicated and risky, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning due to the value of these rare animals". An additional three animals were to join them soon, but Balala said he had immediately suspended the transfer operations. "We need to know what went wrong so that it never happens again".

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