Former Kenya Wildlife Service Board Chairman Richard Leakey told MPs that the board members were against the setting up of the Rhino Sanctuary at the Tsavo National Park due to the salinity of the water in the area.
Appearing before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee led by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, Leakey said there were three attempts by the World-Wide Fund for Nature to set up the sanctuary and translocate the rhinos during the tenure of the Board, but they were rejected.
He stated that once the board’s term ended, the sanctuary was set up despite the water not being safe for wildlife and this could have contributed to the deaths of the eleven rhinos.
“We knew from the beginning that this water was poisonous. If it could harm ngamia (camels), goats’ cattle and other animals surely it would harm rhinos as well,” said Leakey.
He further blamed senior KWS officials who ignored the Board’s directive and went ahead to set up the sanctuary and eventually trans-locating the rhinos.
“How senior most officers in absence of the board decided to move 11 rhinos into a sanctuary where previous board had said no still baffles me. It means he just woke up one day and said I will do it anyway or somebody picked up the phone and told him to do it,” he explained.
Leakey refuted claims that he was interfering with the operations of KWS where he was accused of having insiders who report to him despite having left.
On 31 July this year, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala who appeared before the committee alleged that Leakey was undermining his position by allegedly kicking out former Tourism PS Fatuma Hirsi during a board meeting notwithstanding his pleas.
“The PS faced many challenges during her time on the board, she was chased away by Dr. Leakey and she never sat on the board since then. Her deputy was the one sitting on the board on behalf of the ministry,” said Balala.
Leaky however denied all the allegations adding that once he left the office, he excluded himself from all decision making.
After his submissions, the committee promised to unearth all the underlying issues at the KWS and whoever slept on their job or misadvised the CS will be responsible saying the deaths of the rhinos were caused by utter negligence.
Following the deaths of the rhinos, Tourism CS Najib Balala suspended six senior KWS staff pending disciplinary action.