Nairobi, July 13 – An attempt to translocate the critically endangered black rhinos in Kenya has turned tragic after eight of them died following the move from their previous habitat to Tsavo East National Park, official sources said Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said in a statement that preliminary investigations suggest that the rhino could have died of poisoning caused by much more salty water in their new environment than they were used to. The translocation exercise has been suspended. The surviving rhinos in the translocated group are being monitored.

Eleven black rhinos were moved from Nairobi National Park last month to a newly created rhino sanctuary in Tsavo East National Park by the Kenya Wildlife Service and its partners, aiming to boost the population there. A total of 14 black rhinos were to be moved.

The black rhino (Diceros bicornis) is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to IUCN, black rhino population declined by a staggering 97.6 per cent from 1960 to the 1990s, primarily as a result of poaching.

In 1993, there were estimated to be just 2,300 black rhino living in the wild, but thanks to conservation efforts across Kenya and southern Africa, populations have risen to over 5,000 currently.