NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Kenya’s most famous animals are fleeing as thousands of firefighters battle flames in four national parks, but some animals may be trapped in the crater of a dormant volcano, a government official said Tuesday.

The fires have also destroyed more than $800,000 worth of crops such as maize, Kenya’s staple food, at a time when 3.2 million Kenyans are at risk of hunger and the government has appealed for international food aid. The fires in central Kenya might have been started by arsonists, including squatters illegally occupying forest that the government has been trying to evict, said Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto.

Ten people have been arrested.

Udoto said some animals might be trapped between the steep sides of the dormant Longonot volcano, 37 miles northwest of the capital.

Aberdare, Mt. Elgon and Ruma parks were threatened by the fires, which started Saturday. Udoto said he did not know how many animals had been killed.

“Large mammals, including lions, cheetahs and leopards were able to run away,” he said. “Elephants are able to detect fire from far away and run away.” But smaller animals might have been trapped in flaming undergrowth, he said.

There are no larger animals in the Longonot volcano, but smaller species like buck and zebra live there.

More than 18 square miles of land have been destroyed across the country so far. More than 4,500 firefighters, policemen and soldiers have battled the flames over the last three days but the fires have continued to spread.

Udoto said the fires have been fed by low humidity, high temperatures, strong winds and a prolonged drought.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.