NAIROBI– Kenya’s wildlife authorities confirmed the death of three black rhinos in the world’s famous game reserve in northwest region, saying investigations are underway to establish the cause of the deaths.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the rhinos, two adults and a calf – were found dead in separate incidences in a span of two weeks at the Masai Mara National Reserve, noting that its vets were carrying out tests on the carcasses in a bid to unravel the real cause of the deaths.

“KWS regrets the deaths and is working closely with Narok County Government to enhance round-the-clock monitoring of the remaining rhinos as we await results from the Government Chemist,” KWS said in a statement.

According to KWS, carcasses of three black rhinos were reported between Nov 12 and 19 by rangers from the Mara Triangle while on routine patrol in the expansive wildlife reserve.

It said one male rhino aged 37 could have died a natural death but the two other deaths were disturbing.

The rangers, KWS said, on Nov 12 identified carcass belonging to a male rhino christened Sairowua that was among the oldest rhinos in the conservancy and had been observed to be in good health a few days earlier.

“KWS mobile veterinary unit was called in and requested to do a post-mortem to establish the possible cause of death. The carcass (estimated at 5 days old) was extensively decomposed, scavenged and dismembered. All the soft tissues and internal organs were missing having been scavenged, leaving only a shell of skin and bones,” it said.

At 37 years of age, KWS said, it is possible that the rhino could have died of natural causes attributed to old age since there were no viable samples that could be collected for laboratory analyses.

KWS said the rhino patrol team on Monday came across the second carcass about 4 km from the first case, which was identified as belonging to a female black rhino christened Naiteru.

Upon being examined by the KWS vets, no external injuries were detected on the partly scavenged carcass estimated to be two days old though the scene had signs of struggle before death. The rhino appeared to have been in good body condition before death.

KWS said the death of the rhino appeared sudden and differential diagnosis was considered.

Following the discovery of the two rhino carcasses, KWS said it deployed personnel with aerial support to do a complete reconnaissance in order to locate and confirm the status of rhinos in the area.

It was during the exercise that the carcass of a young male rhino christened Kantai was discovered not very far from the carcass of the mother. “The calf is reported to have been seen in good health two days prior to the discovery of the carcass,” KWS said.

It said there was evidence of struggle before death at the scene, but there were no external injuries observed. According to KWS, in all the three cases both anterior and posterior horns were intact.