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Fires Threaten Wildlife in Kenya

March 24th, 2009 Category: Fires

Forest fires in Kenya - March 24th, 2009

Forest fires in Kenya - March 24th, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of flamingos and other wildlife are at risk after five forest fires erupted in Kenya on Saturday, reports the BBC. Here, one large fire is visible at the center right, north of the tan-colored Lake Laivasha. Another smaller fire is visible below the center of the image.

The fires have had an adverse effect on the Masai Mara Nature Reserve and on the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, officials say.

Other wildlife reserves are under threat, including Lake Nakuru (the dark green lake near the center of the image), which is home to almost a million flamingos. Nearly 60 species of wildlife, including white rhino, also depend on the lake.

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), all the rivers that drain from south-western Kenya’s Mau forest into the lake have dried drastically. Water is being pumped from underground bore holes in order to give drinking water to the animals.

By Sunday an estimated 200 hectares (500 acres) of woodland had been razed in Mau – East Africa’s largest indigenous forest.

Another blaze nearby has destroyed about a quarter of the 52 sq km (20 square miles) Mount Longonot National Park, an extinct volcano in Kenya’s Rift Valley, said officials.

Zebras, buffaloes, antelopes, gazelles and giraffes have fled the fires, crossing roads and residential areas to reach safety, said witnesses. But some wildlife experts said snakes and smaller animals, like rabbits and mongooses, may not have managed to escape.

Police say they suspect some of the still-raging blazes were started by communities to make space for farmland. Others may have been started by members of communities opposed to government plans to move them out of the Mau forest, say police, and several people have been arrested, accused of arson.

Kenya is suffering a drought this year that has contributed to hunger the government says is affecting 10 million people.

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