Nairobi, Nov 22 – Wildlife officials in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve said on Thursday that they were investigating the deaths of three black rhinos that were found dead in the park earlier this week with their horns intact. The cause of death remains unclear and a post-mortem is being carried out.

“We are yet to know the cause of their deaths but our veterinary officers are on standby to deal with any situation in case it is an outbreak of a disease,” Liaram Molai, Mara Triangle Administrator, told the Standard newspaper.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve Chief Warden Moses Ole Kuyioni said an emergency meeting was convened on Thursday to discuss plans to step up surveillance and rhino protection efforts within the reserve, which is home to about 50 rhinos.

The Kenya Wildlife Service said in a statement that one of the dead rhinos was aged 37. “At 37 years of age, it is possible that the rhino could have died of natural causes attributed to old age […]. In all the three cases, both anterior and exterior horns were intact.”

A rush to relocate critically endangered black rhinoceros from Nairobi National Park to Tsavo National Park in August ended in catastrophe when all 11 pachyderms died soon after arrival because the habitat, with saline water, was ill-suited.

The deaths triggered recriminations within Kenya conservation circles as the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, attributed the deaths to “multiple stress syndrome that was aggravated by salt poisoning, dehydration, starvation, opportunistic bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract, gastric ulcers and gastritis.”

Former KWS Board of Trustees Chair, renowned palaeontologist and conservationist Richard Leakey, had voiced concern over high water salinity in Tsavo and had thrice blocked the translocation during his tenure, which ended in April of 2018.