The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.
PIC: A female black rhinoceros, one of three individuals about to the translocated, stands in a transport crate, in Nairobi National Park last month. (AFP)
Seven out of 14 critically endangered black rhinos died after being moved to a new reserve in southern Kenya, wildlife officials admitted on Friday.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has refused to comment on the rhinoceros deaths but, speaking on condition of anonymity, one official said, “Seven of the rhinos died but it has not been established as to why.”
A second KWS officer also confirmed the deaths but said an investigation had to be carried out before the information was made public.
The relocation of endangered animals — known as translocation — involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.
But the loss of half of them is highly unusual.
The black rhinos were moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru national parks to Tsavo East last month in an operation trumpeted by Tourism Minister Najib Balala. He has yet to comment on the tragic outcome.
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) translocation team members drill the horn of a black female rhino to equip it with a radio transmitter last month
This black male rhinoceros is assisted into a transport crate for relocation last month
Prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said officials must take responsibility and explain what went wrong.
“Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later,” she said.
“Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.”
Save the Rhinos estimates there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa, while Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year.
In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill.