SUPPRESSING THE SPREAD OF UNCONTROLLED FIRE IN MOUNT KENYA NATIONAL PARK
A fire in Mount Kenya National Park, burning for over two months, escalated to uncontrolled levels on the northern slopes in February. RRF thus granted US$40,000 to the Mount Kenya Trust to support fire suppression activities and to prevent additional loss of valuable habitat.
From mid-March 2022, fires scoured sections of the National Park, threatening key moorland and forest habitats on Mount Kenya. Some forest glades containing mature rosewood and cedar trees were lost early on and without a significant response, further losses to mature and restored habitats were inevitable.
The Mount Kenya Trust played a key part in coordinating firefighting efforts with Rhino Ark, the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya wildlife service deploying up to 35 trained personnel each day and a further 150 – 200 community members. Mount Kenya Trust coordinated helicopter support to drop trained staff at the fires sites and to drop water on the fires. Rapid Response Facility funding in March 2022 enabled additional personnel to be deployed to assist in fire break creation, and supported critical helicopter flights to douse blazes. The trust also recognised the long-term causes of the emergency and workshops with key government agencies on security issues, including illegal fire use, are being organised.
Credit: Tropic Air
Mount Kenya National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997 for the rich biodiversity found on its slopes. The mountain is an ancient inactive volcano and a unique example of evolution in action, with plants and animals present that are found nowhere else. The park contains a wide variety of areas from rocky mountainous slopes to dry grassy savannahs, home to African Elephants during their migrations.
The integrity of the ecosystem has been ensured over the last two decades by the work of the Mount Kenya Trust, along with government, NGO and private partners. Fires are, to a degree, expected at the site, and they enable key ecological processes to occur. However, exceptionally dry conditions brought on by continued drought have increased susceptibility of the habitat to fire.
Credit: Joe Murethi
Posted May 2022