Kenyan Wildlife Minister on the ropes after rhino deaths
Publish date: 07 August 2018
Issue Number: 568
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Kenya’s Wildlife Minister last week apologised for telling his critics to ‘go to hell’ as he comes under mounting pressure over the death of 10 rhinos during a botched transfer. A report in The Herald notes that Tourism & Wildlife Minister Najib Balala had directed the comments to those calling for his resignation over the fiasco during a media conference. ‘People need explanations about the rhinos . . . people are angry. I am also angry,’ Balala reportedly told lawmakers the next day. ‘I have emotions and I reacted. I feel let down by my system that did not act quickly to stop the death of the rhinos.’ Kenyans have been left stunned after 10 of 11 rhinos being transferred from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru national parks to Tsavo East died. The 11th was attacked by lions, and is recovering. Balala has blamed senior Kenyan Wildlife Service officials involved in the transfer for negligence, suspending six. An initial inquiry indicated that the rhinos may have become dehydrated and died after drinking saline water. The scandal intensified when the former chair of the Wildlife Service Board, world renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey, released a statement revealing that the board had on three prior occasions blocked the transfer. He said this was due to ‘a deep concern about the lack of vegetation in the sanctuary that could sustain rhino, and also, the real issue of available and safe water’. Leakey also said that no new board had been set up in the three months since the one he chaired expired, leaving the decision to carry out the translocation entirely up to Balala’s Ministry.