Balala blamed for death of rhinos at Tsavo park
New homeThe rhinos died at a sanctuary in Tsavo National Park as they were being moved to a new home. Wildlife conservationists across the world were angered by the deaths. What was to be a routine operation turned into one of the greatest setbacks for conservation efforts in the country. A report at the time said the rhinos died due to “multiple stress syndrome intensified by salty conditions.” They were also starving and dehydrated, and had been attacked by opportunistic bacteria. The MPs report has also shone a spotlight on the role of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the whole debacle. They noted WWF pressurised KWS to move the rhinos against advice from former KWS board members. “The committee noted that WWF had no legal mandate to pressure a Government entity to act outside laid down procedures,” the report said. When he appeared before the committee, former KWS boss Richard Leakey said WWF was keen on the operation “to expend donor funding meant for the translocation exercise.” When Balala himself appeared before the MPs, he was at pains to explain how some of the country’s most prized wildlife could disappear within such a short time.
Other blundersBalala defended himself, saying he was in Canada during the translocation and he suspended it after learning of the rhinos’ deaths. The committee in its investigations discovered many other blunders that claimed the animals’ lives. It noted, for example, that some staff were deployed in roles they were not qualified for, and that there was poor communication during the exercise. The head of ecological monitoring was also exposed to be a marine scientist, an ill-fitting qualification for his role. Matters were worsened by what the committee noted was use of outdated translocation guidelines. The MPs want disciplinary action taken against all KWS officers who failed in their duties. It has also recommended a job evaluation for all officers to align their qualifications with their job descriptions. The report will be debated by lawmakers who could approve or reject its recommendations.
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