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Wildlife Flees Kenyan Blazes March 23, 2012
Firefighters battling Mount Kenya blazes.
Kenyan Fire Services workers battling blaze near Mount Kenya on March 19, 2012.
A string of wildfires around East Africa’s snow-capped Mount Kenya has forced elephants and other wild animals to flee for their lives.

While hot and dry conditions persist under the region’s long-term drought, officials believe the blazes may have been intentionally or inadvertently set.

“Poachers are known to start fires to draw attention from what they are doing,” Shawn Evans, the chief pilot of the Lady Lori helicopter company told the South African Press Association.

The company has been hired by the government to help battle the flames.

Poachers target elephants that roam the forests on the flanks of Mount Kenya for their ivory tusks.

Other suspected sources of the blazes are honey gatherers, who use smoke to control wild bees.

Patrick Wanjohi, the director of the Mountain Rock Lodge, on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya, said the burnt forests will not quickly regenerate because of the high altitude.

He told reporters that animals from around the mountain are likely to flee into farms at lower elevations, leading to human-animal conflict.

Photo: Joseph Kanyi - Daily Nation