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Vets call for reinstatement of KWS officers suspended over rhino deaths

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Veterinary professionals have called for the immediate reinstatement of their colleagues who were suspended from the Kenya Wildlife Service over the death of the 10 rhinos during the translocation in June this year. 

Tourism CS Najib Balala had suspended six KWS officers in July over the death of the rhinos accusing them of negligence, citing an inquiry report. 

He also demoted director general Julius Kimani, appointing Dr Charles Musyoki as a replacement in an acting capacity.

But the Kenyan Veterinary Board appointed a seven-member inquiry team led by Vijay Varma, a vet lecturer at the University of Nairobi to investigate the professional conduct of the suspended officers in handling the translocation process. 

The team released its report on Monday, exonerating the suspended officers of any professional negligence. 

Commenting on the report, the board’s chair Chirstopher Wanga said the report is exhaustive and that it has vindicated the officers.

“The vet professionals have been discharged from any professional culpability,” he said, adding that “they followed the right procedure in handling the translocation process.”

Hesitating from blaming the CS on the action taken against the officers, Wanga emphasized that the blame should squarely be on the instability at the board of the KWS. 

“We hope the report will be used to stabilise the board and have vet professionals versed on issues of health and welfare, rather than being full of conservationists as it is now,” he said. 

“Leadership at the board also needs to be stabilised,” said Wanga.

The board needs to be there all the time, he added.

But Union of Veterinary Practitioners in Kenya (UVPK) secretary general Benson Kibore called for the immediate reinstatement of the suspended officers.

“We are not just calling for reinstatement of our colleagues but also the full implementation of the released report,” he said.

He also threatened court action “for damages for our colleagues because their reputations have been seriously wounded”.

“We have been following this matter from inception and now as then, we maintain that our colleagues were used to cover for the failure of the top management and CS Balala,” he said.

Kibore also alleged that the translocation exercise was bound to fail because it was conducted against professional advice in a bid to “utilise money.”

“The financial year of the WWF was coming to an end and they just wanted to clear the money allocated to them before the turn of the year,” he said.

The Kenya Veterinary Association former secretary general Kenneth Wameyo, who is also a vet consultant, also emphasized the need to “reinstate our professional colleagues forthwith to the KWS.”

Those suspended included Samuel Kasiki who was the deputy director biodiversity, research and monitoring at the wildlife agency and Francis Gakuya who headed veterinary services division.

The head of capture service Isaac Leekolol was also shown the door.

Others were Felix Mwangangi, the senior warden at Tsavo East, head of ecological monitoring Mohammed Omar and Fredrick Odock Lala, the senior scientist at the park.

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