Kenya Wildlife Service staff loads a black rhino into a transport crate in June in Nairobi National Park.
CNN  — 

The relocation of endangered black rhinos has been immediately suspended following the death of eight rhinos at a new sanctuary in southern Kenya, the nation’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said Friday.

“The high salt levels lead to dehydration that triggers thirst mechanism, resulting in excess water intake of the saline water that further exacerbates the problem,” Balala said.

The government called for an independent investigation and said disciplinary action would be taken if findings point to “negligence or unprofessional misconduct” by Kenya Wildlife Service staff, he said.

The rhinos were moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru national parks to Tsavo East National Park to start a new population in the area.

Kenya Wildlife Service team members load a black rhino into a transport crate last month.

The three surviving rhinos are being closely monitored by veterinary and park management teams, officials said.

“At a time when three rhinos are poached on average a day for their horns, any losses are particularly painful,” said Mohamed Awer, CEO of World Wildlife Fund Kenya.

WWF Kenya also said it supports “launching an urgent independent assessment” to determine why the black rhinos died.

With about 5,000 left worldwide, the black rhino is critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. By the end of last year, Kenya had about 745 black rhinos, according to Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Translocating wild animals of this size is extremely challenging and not without risk,” Awer said, “but black rhinos are under enormous threat so efforts to try and better protect them, such as translocations, are crucial for future generations.”