Probe Reveals John the Rhino Died ‘From Negligence’

CONTROVERSY surrounding the disappearance of a rhinoceros, christened John, was put to rest yesterday after a probe team formed by the state last December revealed that the animal died at a private farm identified as Sasakwa Grumeti.

Contradicting reports over John the rhino’s whereabouts unfolded last year during the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa’s visit to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the premier was told about the missing rhino, with some quarters suggesting that it had possibly been sold off.

But, it was later reported that ‘John’ had died while being ‘nursed’ within the private Sasakwa Grumeti Reserve where it was relocated after reportedly ‘causing chaos’ in the Crater, where it used to attack other mammals in its quest for territorial supremacy around the caldera.

Those conflicting reports compelled Mr Majaliwa to brief a probe team to conduct thorough investigations on whether the animal was sold or dead, saying the government had spent a lot of money in airlifting the rhinos from South Africa.

Presenting the report to Mr Majaliwa, probe team leader Prof Samwel Manyele, who is also Chief Government Chemist (CGC), said 45 samples that were collected from a carcass all revealed that the remains were those of John the rhino.

Lack of care and medical treatment were cited as possible causes of death, also aggravated by lack of care from ‘uncaring’ wildlife managers within the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) officials of the ‘parent’ ministry responsible for natural resources and tourism.

“Tests on blood DNA samples, remains of the skull and horns said to be of John the rhino … and dried faeces were made … all of them revealed to be of a male black rhinoceros, which are 100 per cent features of John the rhino,” he revealed.

According to Prof Manyele, the team sought help and expert advice from security organs, relevant ministry officials and assistance from South Africa laboratories.

The report further revealed that there weren’t any official documents approving the reported “transfer of John the rhino” from the government-owned Ngorongoro Crater to the private farm at Sasakawa Grumeti. The animal was said to have been relocated to the private ranch in December, 2015, from where it was subsequently reported dead in August, last year.

Ministry officials said “the rhino had to be moved from the Ngorongoro Crater to avoid inbreeding,” arguing that John was the father of 26 of the 37 black rhinos still alive (to date) within the crater. The team recommended procedures to transfer endangered species to be specified in laws and regulations.

“If cattle and goats are transported with proper permits … why wasn’t it applied to John the rhino? The team therefore, suggests administrative measures to be taken against wildlife director’s office and NCAA manager,” he said.

Prof Manyele further cited ‘conflict of interests’ between those who wanted procedures to be followed – whom he labelled as ‘patriots’- and others who wanted to go against the procedures for their own interest.

“Self-interest prevailed leading to relocation of some staff. The team advises the government to form a team to make a comprehensive assessment to see if the existing NCAA management is self-sufficient to continue to lead the institution in the interest of the nation,” he suggested.

Existence of the many authorities within the wildlife conservation sector were also cited as “challenges (facing) wildlife protection … leading to operational interferences and thereby providing loopholes for poachers.

To curb poaching activities, the team suggested comprehensive assessment on people living in conservation areas as well as a comprehensive assessment on airports found within wildlife habitats.

Premier Majaliwa has pledged that the government would assess all the team’s recommendation and announce appropriate measures soon.

“The government spends a lot of money in taking care of these animals … we must therefore know the truth behind the death of anyone of them,” he said, adding: “This government is committed to protecting wildlife … because tourism contributes to tax and foreign exchange earnings.”

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Source: Tanzania Daily News

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