Kenya: KWS Blames Herders as Rampant Tsavo Park Fires Cause Worry

The government is in a race to end national park fires following several cases that have put wildlife and vegetation at risk of being wiped out.

Fresh incidents at Tsavo National Park have pushed stakeholders to launch initiatives in a bid to deploy more resources to save the park.

Fires broke out at Tsavo West National Park, Mgeno and Lumo conservancies on Saturday night.

Teams from government agencies and non-governmental wildlife organisations as well as residents joined Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) firefighters in putting out the fires.

More than 400 people from Taita Taveta County were transported to the scenes in buses to help.

Speaking at Mwaktau, Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant Director Robert Njue said firefighters from the Kenya Air Force were also deployed to help contain the inferno.

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elungata visited the area to access the situation.

HERDERS

Several cases of fires are threatening to destroy thousands of acres in the largest conservation area in the country, with the KWS launching investigations to find the causes.

Six incidents have been reported in August alone, a situation that has overwhelmed the KWS and its partners.

Following this latest incident, the service pointed the finger at herders.

"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," Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant Director Robert Njue said.

Mr Njue said investigations were launched to determine the cause of the fires but ruled out natural causes, saying they suspect illegal herders are 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.

Recently, KWS said the fires were caused by locals living adjacent to the park.

FUNDS DRIVE

On Sunday, wildlife organisations in the country began an online Sh20 million funds drive for resources to be sued to contain the fire.

Mr Njue said KWS is unable to manage the situation since it requires plenty of resources.

"We have called on all wildlife partners because we cannot do this alone. They are helping us in fundraising for more resources to save the parks," he said.

Tsavo Heritage Foundation chair Jacob Kipong'oso is leading wildlife partners in the resource collection.

Another stakeholder, Willie Mwadilo, said a lot of vegetation has been wiped out and efforts by KWS and local wildlife conservation partners to manage the situation have been futile.

"We need resources to feed the firefighters and fuel choppers and vehicles," he said

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