Kenya halts rhino transfers after 8 die of salt poisoning

Kenyan authorities have suspended translocation of rhinos from Nairobi and Nakuru National Parks to the new Tsavo East National Park after eight black rhinos died last week due to salt poisoning, local media report. Preliminary investigations point to salt poisoning after the relocated rhinos drank highly saline water on arrival in the new environment, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said. The animals suffered dehydration that forced them to consume more and more saline water resulting in their deaths. Strangely, very few rhinos had died while being relocated or immobilised in Kenya over the past decade. Of the 149 rhinos relocated between 2005 and 2017, only eight have died, a ministry statement said, adding that of the 74 rhinos immobilised for ear-notching, only one died. Last week, the government was planning to move 14 rhinos to the new park. According to Balala, the samples collected from the dead rhinos on July 12 are being analysed by Prof. Peter Gathumbi, a senior veterinary pathologist from the University of Nairobi, who is heading an independent investigation. The test results are expected within a week. The four remaining rhinos are being closely monitored and provided with fresh water. European hunters and settlers are primarily responsible for the drastic fall in black rhino population. There are just over 5,000 of this critically endangered species worldwide.