20 May 2005

Pneumonia blamed for death of black rhinos

Kenyan wildlife authorities said on Thursday that pneumonia killed four black rhinos in a private sanctuary in Kenya's Rift Valley province after they were transferred from Nairobi National Park.

The four pachyderms died early this month in a ranch owned by Italian author Kuki Gallman in Rift Valley's Laikipia district, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.

KWS spokesperson Connie Maina said in a statement that preliminary lab tests indicated that the rhinos died of pneumonia, but further forensic tests would be carried out.

A task force has been formed to evaluate the capture and translocation of the rhinos, she added.

The dead rhinos were part of a group of 10 that were transferred from a sanctuary in Nairobi National Park, home to 65 other rhinos, to Laikipia between April 30 and May, KWS said.

Maina explained that a mortality rate of between five to 10 percent has been recorded in previous translocation of rhinos from the park. Since 1983, 67 rhinos have been moved from the Nairobi National Park to other understocked sanctuaries.

There are about 435 black rhinos in Kenya, and "the recent loss of four rhinos is nonetheless higher than expected", she said.

The death of the rhinos poses fresh strains between KWS and conservationists who have accused the government body of over-estimating the population of rhinos in the East African nation.

Early this year, wildlife activists heaped pressure on the government to drop controversial plans to send hundreds of wild animals - including rhinos - to zoos in Thailand, appealing directly to President Mwai Kibaki to cancel the deal.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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