Star (Kenya)

Dec. 28, 2018, 3:00 pm

By GORDON OUKO @gordon_osen

KWS personnel push a tranquillised female black rhino before transporting it on June 26, 2018. /REUTERS

The team assembled by the Kenya Veterinary Board to probe the circumstances surrounding the death of the 10 black rhinos in July has unearthed what appears to be massive administrative negligence.

The seven-member technical team was appointed on August 3 and required to file their report by August 30.

The report has now been made public.

Kenya Wildlife Service and World Wildlife Fund Kenya commissioned the translocation of 11 black rhinos from Nakuru National Park to Tsavo East National Park in which 10 succumbed to salt poisoning.

In their findings, the team confirmed the rhinos were killed by highly saline borehole water.

The eleventh died of injuries from a lion attack.

But the perturbing finding is the lack of due diligence that appears to have not been undertaken before the translocation process was started.

“Water quality and reliability considerations were not adequately taken into account during the early phases of planning of the Tsavo East National Park Sanctuary,” the report says.

This puts to question what preparations were done at the reported cost of Sh100 million if this area was not adequately focused on.

The report indicates testing and assessment of the water quality at the park appeared not to have been prioritised and the findings were not supplied to those making critical decisions on translocation.

“Water quality assessment came in late in the project and when it was done, the results generated were not shared with KWS management and notably the Veterinary and Capture Services Department involved in planning, the translocation process,” the report indicates.

The Vijay Varma-led team found that the environment assessment report relied on for the process was produced seven years ago further impugning the process.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment was carried way back in 2011 to inform the translocation exercise in 2018, a very long waiting period bringing into question the validity of the report,” it says.

It also blamed the frequent changes at the wildlife agency’s board, suggesting that this affected the stability of the management of the agency.

“Frequent changes in top management at KWS over the recent past few years preceding the project impacted negatively on decisions and communications leading to departments operating in silos with very severe consequences,” says the probe.

The report also exonerated the veterinary officers that tourism CS Najib Balala has axed in the wake of the scandal, discharging them of any professional negligence.

“The KWS utilised veterinarians in their employment who are very experienced in the translocation process, clinical work and postmortem. An independent pathologist in good standing with the Board corroborated the post mortem findings,” it says.

The Kenya Union of Veterinary Practitioners Benson Kiborek had even threatened court action against the KWS and the CS for damages, urguing that they “were used to cover up failures of the top management.”

KVB chair Christopher Wanga had told The Star that the report was professional and accurate.