The government has moved to vaccinate 82 rhinos following an outbreak of anthrax at Lake Nakuru National Park that has so far killed 14 buffaloes.
Principal Secretary State Department of Wildlife Dr Susan Koech who was accompanied by veterinary doctors and top Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) personnel at the park to review the situation said samples from four more buffalo carcass recovered Monday are undergoing laboratory analysis.
The team vaccinated 67 black rhinos and 15 white rhinos.
“We have managed to vaccinate 14 white rhinos and 4 black rhinos as a precautionary measure. The feeding habits of buffaloes are very similar to rhinos making the latter endangered species vulnerable to anthrax infection” said Dr Koech.
She said air traffic patrols have been increased to two per day to help in identifying and destroying carcasses through burning while at the same time disinfecting the park.
The first case was reported on Sunday when ten buffaloes were reported dead following a suspected anthrax outbreak at the park.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesperson Paul Gathitu said officers are on the ground to control the situation.
“We have taken surveillance action and everything now is under control as our veterinary doctors are on the ground vaccinating the buffaloes and monitoring the situation,” Mr Githitu said.
Gathitu said protocols will be observed during disposal of the carcasses, including burying the animals, putting chemicals and managing the site.
“It’s only when you come into direct contact with the carcasses that you’ll be affected,” Gathitu said.
Dr Koech blamed the outbreak on prolonged dry and hot weather conditions saying the first incident was reported on March 29, 2019. She said to avoid congregation of large herds at one water point, KWS had activated its several water pans spread out across the park.
“During such prolonged drought, the disease tends to manifest itself very fast and this is one of the reasons we suspect is the cause of the disease.W e are ensuring that the water pans are full so as to minimize the movement and interaction of many animals. This will reduce animal contacts which in turn promotes the risk of infection. We have also come up with a plan to relocate some of the Buffaloes to other game parks and reserves” said the Principal Secretary.
Meanwhile, Nakuru County minister in charge of Agriculture Dr Immaculate Njuthe Maina announced that at least one case of anthrax was also reported in Elburgon, Molo.
Dr Koech on her part said the government was working with the devolved unit and other state departments in sensitizing communities around the park on anthrax.
“If not managed well, the outbreak can spiral out of control and find its way into neighbouring communities. During dry spells, livestock owners grave their animals near the park which is a very high-risk factor for anthrax infection” she stated.