At least 80,000 hectares of moorland in Mt Kenya National Park has been destroyed by a raging fire that started on Saturday.
The wildfire reportedly started near Lake Ellis in Tharaka-Nithi County before spreading to parts of Embu, Laikipia and Kirinyaga.
Speaking in Chogoria after assessing the damage on Wednesday, Kenya Forest Service chief conservator, Monica Kalenda, said 114 forest fires had been reported in the country since January. More than 90,000 hectares of forest worth about Sh1 billion had so far been destroyed, she added.
“80,000 hectares of moorland, 388.5 of grass, 93 of exotic plantations, 94 of indigenous plantation, 388 of grass and hectares of other sections have been destroyed,” said Ms Kalenda.
She added that they were looking forward to putting out the fire on the Embu, Laikipia and Tharaka Nithi side ‘any time from tomorrow’.
It was, however, almost impossible to battle the fire on the canopies of the Kirinyaga side because the area is inaccessible, with the situation being compounded by strong winds that make it impossible to employ choppers.
Ms Kalenda said they were investigating the cause of the fire but did not rule out poachers, illegal honey harvesters and bhang farmers.
She said that although there were many firefighting equipment bought by government, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) lacked capacity, such as trained personnel, to use them.
About 120 Community Forest Association (CFA) members have teamed up with KFS officers, KWS rangers, the Rhino Ark and The David Sheldrick teams to battle the fire. Four helicopters have also been deployed.
And with three more weeks of the dry spell in the region, at least according to the meteorologial department, there are fears the fires could spread further.
Ms Kalenda said the frequent fires were a threat to the mountain, which is the main source of rivers.
KWS acting director-general, Dr Charles Musyoki, said many animals, particularly the smaller wildlife groups, had been killed by the fire, adding that the number of tourists visiting the park had dropped.
He said most animals had fled the forest and that there was a likelihood of human-wildlife conflict should they invade the neighbouring villages. He asked his officers and locals to remain vigilant.