Saturday, May 28, 2022

Veldt fires hit grazing lands, tourism spots

The recent veldt fires that have severely affected areas like the Kgatleng region, marring the environment, wiping out entire grazing lands and endangering fuana and flora, have caused serious concern to the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.

With tourism season nearing, the tourism sector has been affected negatively due to destruction of wildlife, particularly in the Ghantsi, South-East, Central and Northern Regions.                                                                           
So far, both people and wildlife have been exposed to danger as the fires have raged in and outside national parks and other tourism destinations. The fires have also affected crop farmers across the country.

Jomo Mafoko, the Head of the Fire Division in the Department of Forestry and Range Resources told The Telegraph that the veldt fires had seriously destroyed indigenous plants, some of which are hard to find. The fire fighting division has launched a spirited effort to douse the fires.
“The spring season has always had a history of veldt fires, which spread rapidly because of dry vegetation and blowing wind,” Mafoko said.

Kgatleng region is particularly reported to have experienced dire environmental damage, with grazing lands being blackened by the scorching flames. Mafoko issued a red alert for cattle post settlements at risk in affected areas.

“The plants have faded in most parts of the Central region where there has been mushrooming of veldt fires,” said Mafoko, adding that so far no arson arrests had been made.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mochudi-based pastoral farmer, Almon Pilane, said his livestock had nowhere to graze as fire had cleared the grass. “The livestock now has to travel many kilometers for greener pastures and this has led to the disappearance of two of my cows. I am now forced to buy feed for my livestock and it is very expensive,” said Pilane. He added that livestock roaming to search for greener fodder fall prey to predators.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks has severely felt the effects of the fires, which have burnt up swathes of protected areas in the north. Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) has not been spared the effects, with the fires raging both inside and outside the reserve.

By press time, neither figures on the actual size of lands and vegetation destroyed nor the number of animals burnt to death were available to The Telegraph.

Officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks could also not give the collateral damage in monetary terms of animals destroyed, nor could they say how much was spent on fighting the fires.

The Forestry Department, Botswana Defence Force and Police had joined in the effort to fight the fires.

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