Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has suspended six Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers over the death of 10 black rhinos at Tsavo East Park sanctuary through negligence.
Mr Balala, on Thursday blamed negligence by conservation officers for the deaths of the endangered black rhinos in a bungled relocation last month from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru national parks to Tsavo.
He also demoted Director-General Julius Kimani, replacing him with Dr Charles Musyoki in an acting capacity.
Dr Musyoki had been the Principal of KWS Training Institute.
"According to the inquiry team, the cause of all the deaths was multiple stress syndrome intensified by salt poisoning and complicated by the following conditions: dehydration, starvation, proliferation of opportunistic bacteria in upper respiratory tract, gastric ulcers and gastritis," Mr Balala said.
“The independent inquiry further showed there were areas of clear negligence that occurred post translocation at the release site in Tsavo, especially in the holding boma at the sanctuary.”
Those suspended are KWS deputy director biodiversity, Research and Monitoring Samuel Kasiki, Dr Francis Gakuya (head of veterinary services) and Isaac Leekolol (head of capture services).
Also suspended are Felix Mwangangi, the senior warden Tsavo East, Dr Mohammed Omar who is KWS’s head of ecological monitoring and Mr Fredrick Odock Lala, senior scientist Tsavo East National Park.
The 11th rhino is in critical condition and could also die after being attacked by lions. The rhinos were also found to have wounds on the legs, neck and lower jaws.
Kenya had a rhino population of 1,258 in 2017 of which 745 are black rhinos, 510 are southern white rhinos and three were northern white rhinos, having grown from less than 400 rhinos in the 1980s. The white rhino is a near threatened species.
In May, three black rhinos were killed in Kenya’s Meru National Park.
Poaching has risen in recent years across Sub-Saharan Africa where armed criminal gangs have killed elephants for tusks and rhinos for horns.