Lying Balala to blame for rhino deaths, ex-KWS boss says

Former Kenya Wildlife Service board chairman Richard Leakey on August 23, 2018 when he appeared before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the National Assembly. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Former Kenya Wildlife Service boss Richard Leakey has hit back at Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala for lying to MPs that he had refused to renew his contract.

Dr Leakey told MPs yesterday that it was untrue that CS Balala refused to renew his contract, explaining that President Uhuru Kenyatta had offered to extend his contract by three years.

He, however, turned down the offer because of his health status.

Balala had told MPs that Leakey was to blame for the death of 11 rhinos, claiming he interfered with the exercise as revenge for non-renewal of his contract.

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Balala had said that the bad blood between him and Leaky started after he declined to lobby for his re-appointed as the KWS board chair following the expiry of his term in April.

Leaky instead blamed the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for the deaths of the wild animals, asserting that the donor pushed the service to carry out the exercise in disregard to salinity of water at the Tsavo National Park.

The conservationist’s remarks corroborate Union of Veterinary Practitioners assertions that WWF and Balala were to blame for the fatal relocation.

He claimed that the donor wanted the translocation done so that they can justify the donor funding as well as to attract further financial support.

“A Cabinet Secretary can make an allegation and I cannot stop it. However, there is no shrimp of truth in it at only. In my entire tenure there, I attended only four meetings in a whole year yet the board members met more than 12 times. How I interfered with the translocation still puzzles me,” said Leakey.

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He further denied allegations that he blocked Tourism Principal Secretary Margret Mwakema from attending KWS board meetings.

He said the PS only attended one board meeting where she wanted to force members to debate on her own agenda which he refused as the meeting was to discuss a different agenda.

The former KWS made the revelations when he appeared before the National Assembly’s Environment Committee chaired by chaired by MP Kareke Mbiuki.

He accused WWF of mischief, claiming that the fund waited for his exit to push for the relocation without proper preparation.

He told the MPs that he had refused to have the exercise until the board was certain of conditions at the Tsavo Park.

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 After his exit, he said, the fund pushed the board to rush the process to move the animals from Nairobi and Nakuru parks.

This was done without testing the salinity level of water in the destination park.

“The WWF wanted a success on their books because they want to please the donors, they pushed for the translocation yet they were aware how the water was but they did not believe us,” he added.

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Najib BalalaRichard LeakeyRhino Deaths