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Wild animals’ lives at risk as fire breaks out in Ruma National Park

By James Omoro | March 29th 2021
The fire in Ruma National Park broke out on Sunday [Courtesy]

The lives of roan antelopes and that of a number of wild animals are in danger after fire broke out in Ruma National Park.

The fire, which broke out on Sunday, has burnt many hectares of land in the park, which is shared by Ndhiwa, Mbita and Suba Sub-counties.

The fire started on Sigama Hills in Ndhiwa Sub-county and continued spreading to other parts of the park.

Many hectares of land containing wildlife had been burnt by mid-morning yesterday and the fire continued spreading quickly.

Roan antelopes are a rare species of wildlife which are found only in the Ruma National Park located in Homa Bay County.

Apart from roan antelopes, the park hosts several species of wild animals including rhinos, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes, baboons, squirrels, porcupines, squirrel, ant-bears, a number of reptiles, amphibians, among others.

Animals which are most at risk of dying are big animals which have given birth to young ones in the affected areas. Small animals such as hare, amphibians and reptiles are also at risk.

The park also has mud fish found in small ponds.

The incident is estimated to have culminated in the death of many wild animals which died of suffocation due to smoke inhalation as a result of the fire in the park.

The animals also died because they could not run to escape from the fire.

Ruma National Park is the home of the Roan antelope [Courtesy/KWS]

On Monday, a team of fire fighters from Ruma National Park were fastidiously putting out the fire. However, their efforts had not been successful at the time of publishing since the fire had covered a large area and was spreading fast.

The cause of the fire has not been established.

It is however suspected that the fire might have spread into the park from residents who were clearing their maize plantations ahead of the ongoing planting season.

Ruma warden Titus Mitau confirmed the incident.

“I am still fighting the fire hence we can’t speak now,” Mitau said.

The fire also burnt fences bordering the park and human settlements. This may lead to human-wildlife conflict when wild animals flee the park looking for sanctuary.

Kanyamwa Kosewe MCA Nicholas Owaka, in whose ward the park lies, condemned the incident.

Owaka said persistent fires in the park will reduce the number of wild animals, a situation which may interfere with tourism in the park.

“Ruma National Park is a precious resource in our county which should be protected at all costs. The fire is unfortunate,” Owaka said.

The MCA called on residents living around the park to be vigilant by identifying people who light fires which spread into the park.

“Let our farmers who clean their plantations by burning be keen to prevent the fire from spreading to unintended places,” Owaka said.

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