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Leakey blames Tourism ministry for rhino deaths.

The Tourism ministry ignored the KWS board of trustees' advice against translocating 11 rhinos to Tsavo East National Park, former chairman Richard Leakey said yesterday.

All the 11 rhinos died; 10 due to multiple stress syndrome and salt poisoning, while one was killed by lions.

Leakey said the board had observed high salinity in two boreholes sunk at the park's holding area where the rhinos were to be relocated. That water was not fit for the animals' consumption, he said.

Tourism CS Najib Balala last month suspended six senior Kenya Wildlife Service officers over the deaths, a decision criticised by Leakey.

'In my mind, to blame the vets and KWS wardens is crazy. Somebody said now that the Leakey board is gone, let us please our friends from the World Wide Fund and conduct the translocation,' Leakey said.

He appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chaired by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki.

'We knew from the start that this water was poisonous. I believe these rhinos died needlessly because they were so thirsty. Either the KWS director general woke up one day, made the decision himself or someone picked up a call and advised him to move the rhinos,' Leakey told the committee.

Balala had earlier told the committee that Leakey was plotting to destroy the KWS by changing its organisational and operational structure.

Wildlife PS Margaret Mwakima, who was a member of the board, told the committee she was among members Leakey chased away.

But Leakey said, 'I am sometimes hostile but not to ladies. Mwakima started lecturing us when we were discussing the AOB. I told her that whatever she was saying was not relevant to the meeting. She left and never came back.'

The Union of Veterinary Practitioners national chairman Benson Kibore earlier told the committee Balala and KWS acting director general Julius Kimani should be held accountable for the rhino deaths.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Aug 24, 2018
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