By Moses Odhiambo, Maurice Kaluoch
Poachers may be lighting fires in game parks and taking advantage of the ensuing confusion to kill animals, say Kenya Wildlife Service officials.
The officials Monday sounded the alarm over loss of among others, five rhinos after a series of fires in Ruma National Park and Kisumu Impala B sanctuary.
They fear the fires might have been sparked by poachers in the protected sanctuaries.
But Kisumu senior warden Catherine Wambani said they were investigating the cause of the fires.
Last week, it took the Kisumu fire department two days to put out a fire at Impala B.
A few days after the Kisumu case, another blaze destroyed half of Ruma National Park in Homa Bay County.
Ms Wambani said sitatunga, hippos and antelopes were affected.
“We further fear that hippo attacks may increase since their grazing fields were affected by the fire,” she said urging residents cultivating around the lake to be more vigilant and keep a distance between the lake and their farms.
She also warned of an increase in animal-wildlife conflict in the region due to the fires.
Last weekend, stakeholders within Ruma National Park held a crisis meeting and blamed the fire outbreak on poachers.
Homa Bay county chief officers also blamed poachers for the loss of five rhinos that were brought to the park from Nakuru National Reserve.
Tourism and Sports chief officer George Opiata Ogada and his Trade and Industrialisation counterpart Julius Alao Opala told local chiefs to step up patrols to contain the poaching menace.
“I wish to urge chiefs to be on the look-out and arrest anybody involved in poaching,” said Mr Opiata.
Mr Opiata said the county government would not relent in its fight against interference with animals in the park.
“As a county, our role is to ensure that more visitors come to Ruma, the home for the Rare Roan antelope,” he added.