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8 Endangered Rhinos Die After Historic Transfer

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The loss of eight supervised rhinos highlights the complex nature of conservation, especially as species face threats as diverse as climate change, habitat loss, and poaching. The United Nations’ Global Goals call on countries to protect biodiversity and you can take action on this issue here.

Eight endangered black rhinos mysteriously died after being transported to a new wildlife reserve in southern Kenya, officials announced on Friday, according to the news station France 24.

A total of 14 rhinos were transported, meaning more than half of them died.

Rhinos have to be tranquilized before being transported, and it’s not unusual to lose an animal during the process, France 24 reports. But losing such a high percentage of rhinos has sparked controversy and calls for an official inquiry into the cause of death, which are now being conducted.

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"Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later," Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu told France 24. "Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.”

Even more alarming is the fact that more rhinos have died through relocation than from poaching this year, according to the Guardian.

Officials were trying to move the rhinos from a national park in Nairobi to a new sanctuary created in Tsavo East National Park. The operation was carried out in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund in an effort to ease environmental constraints.

It was the first time that rhinos has been moved to Tsavo East since the 1990s, when the park held nearly 2,000 rhinos, the Guardian reports. Today, less than 20 rhinos live there.  

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“We move them when we surpass ecological and social carrying capacity or when we identify new suitable secure habitat,” said Linus Kariuki, the coordinator of Kenya Wildlife Service’s rhino program.

The Tsavo sanctuary had been set up in the middle of an existing park, which raised concerns that the rhinos would clash with other animals, according to Kenya’s Standard Media.

The sanctuary spans 100 square kilometers, and features three solar-powered boreholes for water.

WWF Kenya had been enthusiastically documenting the transportation over the past several weeks and the loss of so many rhinos is likely a devastating blow to conservation efforts.

Save the Rhino estimates there are around 5,000 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa, while Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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Since 1960, the global black rhino population has plummeted by more than 97%, driven largely by poaching funded by the demand for rhino horns throughout Asia.

Rhinos are also threatened by shrinking habitats and climate change, which makes it harder to find food, according to WWF.

South Africa has the world’s largest black rhino population, largely because of effective conservation efforts.