Three black rhinos have died in the Maasai Mara National Reserve according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Investigations are ongoing on the cause of the deaths.
KWS has shared that the rhinos were found deceased between 12th and 19th November in the Mara Triangle, which is the north-western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is managed by The Mara Conservancy on behalf of Narok County. KWS provides an oversight role and technical support in the management of wildlife in the reserve.
The 3 rhinos were found as follows:
Sairowua is a male rhino and was among the oldest rhinos in the conservancy at 37 years. It was found dead on 12th November and it was estimated to have expired 5 days before it was found.
It was found with all its horns and it is possible that it died of natural causes. However, skin tissue was collected for DNA analysis.
Naiteru, a female black rhino, was discovered dead on November 16, near where Sairowua died. It is estimated that it had died 2 days before it was found. The scene had signs of struggle before death. The rhino was carrying a male foetus estimated at 8 months. The foetus was fresh and possibly died soon after the mother died.
The cause of the death is unclear and sections of the liver and intestines as well as intestinal contents were collected and the samples have been submitted to the Government Chemist and University of Nairobi veterinary school for toxicological and histopathology analysis.
Given that the rhino shared the same territory with the first case, environmental samples from areas of common use (salt lick) were collected and have been submitted to the Government Chemist as well for analysis.
Following the discovery of the first 2 rhinos, KWS did an aerial reconnaissance of the area to confirm the status of rhinos. During this exercise, the discovered the remains of a young rhino named Kantai on November 19.
The carcass was found moderately bloated and estimated to be dead during the last 36 hours. There was evidence of struggle before death at the scene, but there were no external injuries observed.
A metal detector was used to scan the entire carcass for foreign metallic objects, but none were detected. Stomach contents and sections of the intestines, liver and kidneys were collected for toxicological and histopathology analysis.
In all the three cases, the horns were intact.
KWS was caught up in a controversy months back after 11 rhinos died after drinking toxic water in Tsavo East. They had been translocated from parks in Nairobi and Nakuru in partnership with WWF. Rhinos are an endangered species due to poaching that is fueled by rising demand for rhino horn in Asia, , particularly in Vietnam and China.