- The Rwandan wildfires that gutted the Volcanoes National Park over the weekend have forced hundreds of animals including rare mountain gorillas to flee to Democratic Republic of Congo for safety, wildlife officials have said.
The fires started Sunday on the Rwandan side of the mountainous bamboo-forested enclave straddling the three states. The ecological zone is home to the world's 720 remaining mountain gorillas.
Reports have suggested arsonists, while other indications are pointing to natural causes as the region continues to experience an unusually dry season.
An estimated 100 hectares have so far been gutted on the foot hills of Muhabura Mountain on the Ugandan side, according to wildlife officials.
However, media reports from Uganda say officials there have been told that the fire was started deliberately by FDLR/Interahamwe rebels who had been seen in the mountains in recent months.
Local reports said efforts to control the fires during the current dry season affecting most parts of Africa were hampered by an acute shortage of water.
"We are working with the respective armies in Uganda and Rwanda and other stakeholders to manage the situation," said Moses Mapesa, operations director of the state-run Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Despite the immediate damage, Mapesa was however quoted as saying that the fires in the long run help the system get rid of excessive biomass and dangerous species like some fungi, thus giving way for better and healthier species to emerge.
There are up to 261 gorillas that are taken care of by Rwanda wildlife authorities out of an estimated several hundreds living in the mountainous area referred to as the Virungas, which includes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo).
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