Kenya conservation news – Now the Aberdare National Park too threatened by wildfires

Prolonged drought conditions and insufficient rain have been blamed for the outbreak of fires now also reported form the Aberdare Mountains, where KWS is hand in hand with fire fighters and volunteers now also trying to extinguish raging fires, as recently reported about from Mt. Kenya National Park.
Reports from Nyeri are such that the extent of the fires in the Aberdare National Park may be greater than the fires already burning high up on Mt. Kenya, causing serious concerns amongst wildlife managers and the conservation fraternity at large over the damage done to the fragile alpine ecosystems found high up on both mountains.
Firefighting efforts are reportedly faced with several problems, like the high elevation of the fires on Mt. Kenya to which access is only available on foot, taking several hours from the most advanced drop off point 4×4 vehicles can reach, as well as the lack of water and equipment to combat the flames.
Information from Nairobi says that KWS had airlifted personnel higher up the mountain with helicopters to create firebreaks but that the elevation makes effective work difficult as ideally staff would need to get acclimatized to avoid elevation sickness due to lack of enough oxygen at heights of over 4.000 metres. The high altitude also exhausts staff rapidly making a frequent exchange of firefighters necessary, which in itself causes additional logistical problems for KWS.
Volunteers have been drafted in and offered their services to help KWS and other governmental bodies to bring the fires under control while at the same time security organs are pursuing the likely culprits, suspected to be poachers and illegal honey collectors, who could be responsible for causing the fires on Mt. Kenya and in the Aberdare Mountains.
Both parks are key elements on Kenyas wildlife circuit, and in particular the Aberdares are sought out by tourists to stay in the so called tree-hotels, like the world famous Treetops or the Ark, or hike the mountains with guides while many others come there for trout fishing.
A source close to KWS at their Langata headquarters also mentioned on condition of anonymity that some tourist routes on Mt. Kenya for hiking and climbing have been closed as a precaution and that the situation at the Aberdare National Park was being monitored before any decision would be taken to temporarily declare the affected areas off limit too until the fires have been brought under control.
The long rains are expected to arrive in Kenya soon but have not yet started in earnest and only sufficient rainfall can help at this stage to bring the fires under control and restore moisture content to the plant and tree vegetation to improve natural resistance. Watch this space.