Kilimanjaro is burning

Kilimanjaro is burning

31 October 2008

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South Africa — Africa’s highest point in the form of Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania is reportedly on fire

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is said to be experiencing fierce flames that are currently threatening the ecosystem around the popular land feature, and so far the management of Kilimanjaro National Park blames poachers “that of late have been prowling the conserved forests around the mountain, inhabited by variety of wild animals.”

The Kilimanjaro Chief Conservator, Nyamakumbati Mafuru, explained that the ongoing raging flames started last Monday and efforts to quench the fire are yet to bear fruit. Vast areas surrounding the mountain have already been devastated by the fire.

“The fire was first noticed an area known as ‘Masheu Keryo’ within Rombo district and was fanned by wind, spreading to over a larger area. By Tuesday the ravaging fire was approaching Horombo station, one of the five resting points used by climbers in their mountain trekking expeditions. The station stands at about 3,720 meters above sea level.

Throughout East Africa short rains known as ‘Vuli’ are currently being experienced, and officials believe the precipitation has helped to reduce the effect of the raging fires.

They also dispel dispelled earlier claims that the flames were a result of naturally occurring bushfires.

“It is raining around Kilimanjaro, as it is doing throughout the country at the moment, so the bushfires could have just been caused by human activities, especially poachers who usually make fires at their camps to smoke illegally killed game for preservations.”

Sometimes illegal hunters would set bushes on fire to dazzle animals at night for easy killing spree.

Reports indicate that the fire had already dwelt its ravages on the rims of Wona gorge and was approaching Mandara area. Kilimanjaro is the flagship of East Africa’s tourism industry.

A team of fire fighters from the Tanzania National Parks Authority have established a camp at the mountain base to fight the fire while also a special aircraft has been dispatched to the area to locate spots affected by the fire and assist in the coordination of the fire fighting efforts.

The director-general of Tanzania National parks Gerald Bigurube has confirmed the incident saying about 380 people have been mobilized to fight the fire. He added that it was too early to estimate the extent of damage.

The director-general wasn’t prepared to accuse poachers, as the Kilimanjaro management said they were yet to establish the actual cause.

Tourist activities are reported to be going on as usual with some visitors finding the flames an added excitement.

The last similar incident occurred in early September 2006, when some 36 square kilometres of vegetation around Mount Kilimanjaro were destroyed by fire which was also blamed on poachers. The fire raged for almost two weeks and caused severe environmental damage.

Booby-traps left behind by poachers had indicated the cause of the fire. Poachers roam forests and mountains to kill animals for trophy (hides, tusks and horns) or sales of their meat.

The Tanzania National Parks then spent 15 million shillings on putting out the fire.

Featuring two major peaks – Mawenzi and Kibo – Kilimanjaro is the continent’s highest mountain, standing at 5,895 meters above sea level. An average of 40,000 foreign visitors climbs the mountain each year. Some 10,000 do it between Christmas time and New Year.

Mount Kilimanjaro has rich and diverse flora, which includes over 1,800 species of flowering plants and 700 species of lower plants. For generations Kilimanjaro has been a major source of clean and safe drinking water. Small farm holders use the water for irrigation and it is also a power generating source for the National Grid.

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