Only rhino to survive Kenyan relocation is attacked by lions

NAIROBI, July 26 (Reuters) - The only rhino to survive a bungled relocation to a Kenyan wildlife park has been attacked by lions, tourism minister Najib Balala said on Thursday.

Ten out of 11 black rhinos being moved by the state wildlife service last month died in their new home in Tsavo East National Park, prompting protests from conservation groups around the world.

Balala said an independent inquiry had found that negligence by conservation officers was to blame for the deaths. The report found the animals had succumbed to stress and poisoning from drinking salty water, he added.

"Unfortunately, the eleventh rhino has been attacked by lions. Yesterday it was treated. So far we are monitoring this eleventh rhino. It's a sad situation," he said.

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Six conservation officers have been suspended following the inquiry, he added.

"Even one rhino is a huge loss. So we are sad and we are disappointed in some of the officers who should have taken responsibility. They didn't take their work seriously. They were casual in their job."

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), whose employees handled the relocation, did not respond to calls for comment.

Poaching has risen in recent years across sub-Saharan Africa where armed criminal gangs have killed elephants for tusks and rhinos for horns. Often the animal parts are shipped to Asia for use in ornaments and medicines.

In May, three black rhinos were killed by poachers in Meru National Park in Kenya, a country heavily dependent on wildlife tourism.

The world's last male northern white rhino died in Kenya in March, leaving only two females of its subspecies alive.

Kenya had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s. In 2017, the number had risen back to 1,258 - 745 of them black rhinos and 510 southern white rhinos, according to KWS. (Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Heavens)