Poachers may now be setting fires in Kenya

Mt. Kenya in AfricaPoachers in Kenya may have added a new weapon to their arsenal as they continue to look for ways to illegally harvest ivory in the African country. Earlier this week a series of wildfires ignited on and around Mt. Kenya and officials believe that they were started by poachers looking to draw attention away from their nefarious activities.

Officials at Mt. Kenya National Park scrambled more than 100 firefighters to combat the fires, which sent wildlife fleeing for safety at lower altitudes. The blaze scorched hundreds of acres of forests along the slopes of the mountain, which is Africa’s second tallest at 5199 meters (17,057 feet). Typically, these types of fires are ignited naturally by lightning, but the region hasn’t had storms of any kind in recent weeks. The fact that they also sprung up near important structures, such as a school, has also fueled suspicion as to their origins.

As we’ve reported numerous times on Gadling, illegal poaching has become a serious problem throughout Africa. Elephants and rhinos are the biggest targets as their tusks and horns fetch large sums of money in Asia where they are commonly used in traditional medicines. Those two species have been hunted to near extinction in several regions of the continent and despite increased anti-poaching operations they continue to be killed at an alarming rate.

The concern is that while park officials were busy putting out these fires, the poachers were hunting the elephants that were forced off the mountain by the blaze. It is too early to tell if they managed to slaughter any of the animals, but authorities fear that they could see the hunters employing fire in future poaching operations as well.

[Photo credit: Chris 73 via WikiMedia]