Efforts to save the critically-endangered black rhino appear cursed. Conservation nonprofit African Parks and South African National Parks, along with the governments of South Africa and Chad, confirmed Friday that two more black rhinos have died in Zakouma National Park in Chad. The news follows confirmation of two other rhino carcasses in the park in October.
That means four out of the six rhinos translocated to Chad from South Africa in May—a move conservationists celebrated because the species is extinct in the north-central African country—are now dead.
None of the deaths are a result of poaching, which is what’s historically driven black rhinos to the brink of extinction. For the two recent deaths, vets believe starvation may be to blame. The animals may not have adapted well to their new environment in the park. Further tests are needed to be certain.
As for the two remaining rhinos, the plan is to recapture them and hold them for further monitoring. Park staff already captured one as of Friday. However, after the first deaths were confirmed, the partnership said the other four rhinos were supposed to be “closely monitored,” per African Parks, and yet two more died.
The International Rhino Foundation, which was uninvolved in this incident, is still trying to learn more about what happened. A statement sent to Earther explains that while many translocations occur each year without a hitch, they are not always easy to pull off.
“Complications can arise, especially with long-distance translocations, and every contingency must be considered,” the statement reads. “Setbacks should not dissuade the conservation community from restocking populations to expand rhino range.”
While the population of black rhinos is increasing according to the IUCN Red List, only about 5,000 black rhinos remain, making them the third most endangered rhino species on Earth. Most deaths occurred between 1960 and 1995 when the population dropped by 98 percent due to poaching.
Recent efforts to save them have been backfiring spectacularly. In July, 10 out of 11 black rhinos died during a transport between parks in Kenya due to deadly salty drinking water. They were already stressed and starved from the move, but this overly salty water pushed them over the edge. Adding insult to injury, the long survivor was attacked by a lion.
Hopefully, there’s no one to blame but Mother Nature for these last four deaths.