KWS rules out poaching in Mara rhino deaths

A female black Rhino stands in a box before being transported during rhino translocation exercise In the Nairobi National Park, Kenya, June 26, 2018./REUTERS

The Kenya Wildlife Service is investigating the deaths of three rhinos whose carcasses were found in the iconic Maasai Mara National Reserve over the past 10 days.

The rhinos; Sairowua, Naiteru and Kantai, were each found on different days and samples taken for analysis to determine cause of death.

News of the deaths caused a stir yesterday, prompting the KWS to issue a statement on what could have happened to the black rhinos.

According to the statement: “Carcasses of three black Rhinos were reported between 12th to 19th November, 2018 at the Mara Triangle… Rangers from the Mara Triangle sighted the carcasses while on routine patrol.”

Sairowua, 37, appeared to have died of natural causes attributed to old age, as a post-mortem on the severely decomposed body could not determine cause of death. Naiteru had an 8-month old foetus that also died, while Kantai was a young male whose remains were being scavenged by lions at the time it was found.

“In all the three cases both anterior and posterior horns were intact,” the KWS reported, ruling out any cases of poaching.

The deaths of the endangered species come just months after close to a dozen died after a translocation earlier this year.

No theories have been forwarded for the deaths at the Mara, but stomach contents and sections of the intestines, liver and kidneys were collected for ‘toxicological and histopathology analysis’.

“KWS regrets the deaths and is working closely with the Narok County Government to enhance round-the-clock monitoring of the remaining rhinos as we await results from the Government Chemist,” the statement added.

There are an estimated 49 black rhinos at the Maasai Mara National Reserve; and the Mara Triangle where the carcasses were found, have a strong anti-poaching unit that partners with local communities to protect wildlife.

Kenya has been feted for its conservation efforts, with a recent meeting by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) approving the country’s exit from a group of nations with global concern on wildlife trafficking.