By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, Standard Digital.
Published 22 November 2018.
Three rhinos that died within Mara Triangle are suspected to have succumbed to an infectious disease, close sources have revealed.
The death of the three rhinos which occurred between November 12 and 19 within the conservancy has sparked fears, with surveillance being stepped up within the entire Mara ecosystem.
Mara Triangle Administrator Liaram Molai said close monitoring of the 10 remaining rhinos, as well as intensive patrols, have been stepped up even as the postmortem results are awaited.
“Currently, we are doing close monitoring on the remaining rhinos after the death of the three rhinos. We are yet to know the cause of their deaths but our veterinary officers are on standby to deal with any situation if in case it is an outbreak of a disease,” Mr Molai said.
Maasai Mara National Reserve Chief Warden Moses Ole Kuyioni said a crisis meeting was held on Thursday morning to deliberate on stepping up surveillance within the neighbouring national reserve that hosts over 50 rhinos.
“Even as we await the postmortem results from the Kenya Wildlife Veterinary officers, we have stepped up surveillance and veterinary offices have been dispatched to the ground to look into the condition of other rhinos within the greater Mara, The Mara Triangle and the Maasai Mara Conservancies,” Mr Kuyioni said.
Mr Molai, however, raised concern that challenges on diagnosing suspected diseases remain key following the government’s ban on darting after the death of the eleven trans-located rhinos in Tsavo.
“The government banned darting, barring the extraction of blood from wildlife for testing but we are still waiting for the results from Government chemist to know the cause of deaths so as to take action,” Mr Molai added.
He however added that experts can best ascertain the deaths of the disease after taking out samples within six hours after the death of an animal.
“The carcasses were however discovered past six hours. The first carcass was discovered after five days, the other after three days and the other a day and a half, which might also affect the time it takes to ascertain the cause of death,” he said.
He said the outbreak of a disease cannot be ruled out although other wildlife including scavengers have not died even after feeding on the carcasses.
In a press statement released by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the rhinos are suspected to have died between November 12 and 19 at the Mara Triangle although postmortem results are yet to be released from the Government chemist.
The KWS noted that round-the–clock monitoring of the remaining rhinos has been stepped up although close sources suspect the rhinos might have died of anthrax, a serious infectious disease.
“It is suspected that the rhinos died of anthrax that is why surveillance has been stepped up in all protected areas that host rhinos,” the source said.
The carcasses of the dead rhinos were found after several days having decomposed but with their horns intact- ruling out poaching.
The KWS, in the statement, noted that one of the rhinos aged 37, which was first found having badly decomposed died of natural causes attributed to old age.
“At 37 years of age, it is possible that the rhino could have died of natural causes attributed to old age,” the statement read.
The discovery of another rhino which was 8 months pregnant not far away from the first rhino prompted the collection of samples to the Government chemist for toxicological analysis and duplicate samples submitted to University of Nairobi veterinary school.
“The death of the rhino appeared sudden and a differential diagnosis was considered…given the rhino shared the same territory with first case, environmental samples from the areas of common use were collected and have been submitted to the Government chemist as well, for analysis,” he said.
The Mobile veterinary Unit is yet to release the postmortem results. They said there were no external injuries on the partly scavenged carcasses.
One of the rhinos that died, according to the KWS was 8 months pregnant but the fetus also died. “In all the three cases, both anterior and exterior horns were intact,” the KWS noted
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.