WILDFIRES

Light fire near reserves at own risk, KWS tells park neighbours

Those culpable risk Sh200,000 fine or imprisonment of not less than two years or to both.

In Summary

• KWS says fires that occurred in the Tsavos and Chyulu national parks in July originated from the areas surrounding the parks. 

• In May, an out-of-control inferno destroyed 4,000 acres of Tsavo East National Park before it was put out. 

A previous fire in Tsavo.
A previous fire in Tsavo.

Following the increased fires within the national parks, the Kenya Wildlife Service has cautioned the public against setting fires close to game reserves.

The KWS corporate communications' office said in a statement on Thursday that those causing fires risk being fined an amount not less than Sh200,000 or imprisonment of not less than two years or to both.  

The fine is provided for under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013. 

 

The Act states, "Any person who sets fire to any vegetation in any wildlife protected area or allows any fire lighted by himself or his servants to enter a wildlife protected area commits an offence." 

KWS said the fires lit by adjacent communities in most cases end up in the parks  and reserves and affect wildlife and habitats. 

"Fires that occurred in the Tsavo and Chyulu national parks in July originated from the areas surrounding the parks," KWS said. 

While it has put in place measures to ensure appropriate preparedness for the upcoming fire season, KWS said, the public, especially those living in proximity to national parks and reserves, are advised to avoid setting fires close to the boundaries. 

The public is informed that it is a punishable offence to set fire in a wildlife protected area. 

Tsavo East National Park was on Wednesday up in flames yet again, days after a similar fire was put out by KWS. 

Tsavo Conservation Area assistant director Robert Njue confirmed the incident to the Star on the phone. 

 

“We are in the middle of mobilising to put out the fire,” Njue told the Star.  The fire started in Bachuma.  

It was also not clear if some wildlife had been affected by the inferno. 

Another fire was put out on Thursday last week. 

“The first one is in the Taita ranches adjacent to Tsavo East National Park,” KWS said.

It said the fire had been extinguished before spreading.

The service said rangers, with the help of other stakeholders, were battling a second fire at the southern part of Tsavo West National park. 

KWS said a third fire broke out in Kikunduku, part of Chyulu National Park, at 7.30pm on Wednesday. 

Last Friday, Segor said the fires were caused by neighbouring communities. 

"The communities are currently preparing their farms and one of the ways they are doing so is by burning," he said. 

Segor said the ministry is on high alert and patrols had been intensified. He ruled out illegal activities. 

In May, an out-of-control inferno destroyed 4,000 acres of Tsavo East National Park before it was put out. 

According to KWS, the fire started in a village called Lebanon, 15km from Voi town. 

KWS acting head of corporate communications Paul Jinaro said investigations indicated it was started by a boy who was burning litter. 

The twin parks are the largest protected areas in Kenya and are home to most of the large mammals, cat family and 500 bird species, among others.

On Thursday, communities bordering Tsavo in Taita Taveta said they fear the fire outbreaks may lead to more human-wildlife conflicts.

"The government should swiftly come up with measures to contain fires,” resident Ben Mwabili said. 

Residents said strong winds hampered KWS efforts. 

Edited by R.Wamochie