Crisped landscapes and burnt animal remains, the aftermath of a horrendous fire at Kenya's Tsavo West National Park extinguished Monday, as announced by The Kenya Wildlife Service — after two gruelling days of firefighting efforts from the military, industry partners, non-governmental wildlife organisations, government agencies and around 400 local resident volunteers. Amongst them were Kenya Defence Forces, National Youth Service, Kenya Forest Service, Taita Taveta County, and - in addition, aerial teams had been deployed.
The fire — which was only a few kilometres from another fire which had broken out a few days earlier, first started on Saturday at Sheikdam around 2 pm along the Maktau-Taveta Road to the South of Murka, according to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) (one of the organisations which were part of the team fighting the fire).
Arsonists and illegal herders are suspected to be behind the series of fires which have hit the park in the last few months — with 6 incidents in August alone and investigations are underway as the government races to protect the wildlife and vegetation of the nation’s largest conservation area which plays a huge role in reviving the crucial tourism industry that has lost $1bn in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant, Director Robert Njue, stated investigations had ruled out any natural causes as the source of the fires and reiterated suspicions of illegal herders being responsible since some of the fires start inside protected areas. "We have leads. They will soon be brought to book. We cannot allow this to continue. Let them be warned that their days are numbers," he said. Tsavo West has been a grazing ground for illegal herders who sneak in their livestock in search of water and pasture.
Stakeholders have launched initiatives in a bid to deploy more resources and preserve this national treasure. "We cannot say how many acres have been destroyed but we will do so immediately after we contain the situation. So far, we have not lost any big animals but we have definitely lost small invertebrates," added Njue. The KWS also stated that a team will be at the park on standby for the next 24 hours to monitor the area for any subsequent incidents.
Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park in south-eastern Kenya is the country's biggest national park and home to hundreds of animals such as lions, elephants and buffaloes. The park attracts all sorts of local and international tourists receiving thousands of visits each year.