Firefighters battle Mount Kenya blaze | Africa | DW | 21.03.2012
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Firefighters battle Mount Kenya blaze

Hundreds of acres of forest have been lost at the UNESCO World Heritage site amid fears for the safety of big game.

A fire on the slopes of Kenya's second highest mountain has sent big game animals like elephants and cheetahs fleeing for their lives.

Paul Udoto from the Kenya Wildlife Service told DW's Africalink program that a huge fire on Mount Kenya had consumed acres and acres of indigenous forest "which one would term irreplaceable."

The elephants had fled the area, he said, but they were still within the protected areas of the mountain.

The fire is burning forest that serves as a water catchment, potentially affecting the region's water supply and hydroelectric dams.

However, Udoto said a variety of organizations including the British army, the local community, the Kenyan police and the Kenyan forest service had joined forces to fight the blaze. With the help of overnight rain, most of the burning sites had been extinguished, and it was expected that the fire would be out completely within two days, unless dry conditions caused it to re-ignite, he added.

Poachers skin a forest elephant for its meat and tusks in the Bangui forest

Poachers target elephants for their ivory and meat

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of the group Save the Elephants, said the fires will deprive animals of food and he expects some to get caught in the flames.

Poachers suspected

Another Kenya Wildlife Service official said the fires may have been set by poachers. Robert Njue, assistant director in charge of the mountain conservation area, believes poachers may have wanted to divert manpower away from efforts to track down their own illegal hunting activities.

Mount Kenya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site possessing what the UN body calls "one of the most impressive landscapes of Eastern Africa."

Author: Mark Caldwell (AP, Kenya Wildlife Service)
Editor: Daniel Pelz/ rm

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