Kenya — A bush fire engulfed Kenya’s Lake Nakuru park on Friday, destroying vegetation and terrifying wildlife at one of the east African nation’s top tourist destinations, local authorities said.
“It is a huge fire, it’s awful,” senior warden Charles Muthui told Reuters from the scene, saying the blaze had spread over a third of the park’s 188 square km area.
Although the exact cause of the fire was unknown, it seemed to come from a nearby village outside the park, but spread quickly because foliage was dry from lack of rain, Muthui said.
“It was windy and dry, so the fire moved quickly. All the animals are running to safety,” he said.
Most famous for its hundreds of thousands of flamingos, the park in central Kenya is home to 450 species including white rhinos, leopards, giraffes and baboons.
The fire is a further blow to Kenya’s tourism sector, which has seen visitors to wildlife parks — and other attractions — dry up because of the country’s post-election crisis that saw an explosion of violence that killed more than 1,000 people.
Visitor numbers to Lake Nakuru National Park dropped by more than 70 percent in January. A Reuters reporter who went last week found the park’s restaurant empty and two students from Dubai enjoying the whole reserve to themselves.
“It’s just one disaster after another for us at the moment,” said a waiter at a hotel inside the park. “What have we done to deserve all this? I feel so sorry for the birds and the animals, it will take years for the park to recover.”
Several hundred park workers, soldiers and policemen were tackling the fire, but had not contained the flames by mid-evening. “The trees and grass are so dry, it’s just consuming everything,” Muthui said.