They also said that worldwide experts will investigate the deaths.
The ministry suspended the ongoing move of rhinos and said the surviving ones in the new park were being closely monitored. I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.
The ministry said preliminary investigations had pointed to salt poisoning as the suspected cause of death.
The Associated Press' Khaled Kazziha explains that the rhinos likely became dehydrated after drinking the sanctuary's saltier water and, in a disastrous cycle, drank more of the water in hopes of satiating their thirst.
"The minister has to say there has been a disaster, rhinos have died".
The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep during transit and then reviving them in a process which poses some risks. National Geographic explorer Paula Kahumbu, CEO of the organization WildlifeDirect, calls the deaths "a major conservation tragedy, not just for Kenya but for all rhinos". In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa almost half a century after it was wiped out there.
The number of African black rhinos dropped almost 98 percent from 1960 to 1995 before conservation efforts began to slowly rebuild the population. "However, range expansion projects to increase black rhino numbers are a recognised cornerstone of conservation efforts, meaning translocation is crucial for future generations", wrote Mr Awer. In addition to poaching the animals also face habitat loss.
In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill. The breakthrough nourishes hope of bringing the almost extinct species back to life. The operation involved police, customs and wildlife authorities in 92 countries.