Seven of 14 rhinos die after move to Kenyan national park

A black rhino. Seven have died in unclear circumstances at the Tsavo East National Park

A black rhino. Seven have died in unclear circumstances at the Tsavo East National Park

Estimates suggest there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa and some 750 in Kenya.

"The Kenya Wildlife Service, with its partners, had determined that it would be a good plan to move more rhinos to Tsavo East National Park, to reestablish a breeding population", Dean said.

A black rhino. Seven have died in unclear circumstances at the Tsavo East National Park. The government agency has not said how the rhinos died.

The deaths during the relocation process were confirmed by officials speaking anonymously to AFP, although they said the reason why the animals died was not yet clear.

'Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is'. The translocation exercise was meant to support the successful breeding program of this critically endangered species of black rhino for which Kenya holds 80% of the sub-species.

According to Cathy Dean, chief executive of Save the Rhino, the relocation of endangered animals, a process called translocation, can help prevent their extinction.

The black was on the brink of extinction after a dramatic 98 percent decline in population from 20,000 in 1970 to about 350 in 1983, says WWF. KWS aims to create a national herd of 830 black rhinos by the end of 2021.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said. "The high salt levels lead to dehydration that triggers thirst mechanism, resulting in excess water intake of the saline water that further exacerbates the problem".

Senior Veterinary Pathologist from the University of Nairobi, Peter Gathumbi, will carry out independent investigations into the incident at the Tsavo with the report expected to be released in a week's time.

It has suspended the ongoing move of other rhinos with the surviving ones being closely monitored. Economic development in Asia has fueled demand for rhino horns, which are used in some Chinese and Vietnamese medicines and displayed as a symbol of wealth.

According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya a year ago.

The eight dead rhinos were among 14 that had been moved to the sanctuary in an initiative to start a new population in line with the National Rhino Conservation and Management Strategy.