The fire from Mufumbiro Mountains in Rwanda that ravaged Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda has been stopped, officials of the Uganda Wildlife Authority have said.
According the public relations manager, Lillian Nsubuga, the fire started on Saturday and crossed to Uganda on Sunday.
â€œWe had put it under control by 10:00pm on Sunday night,â€ Nsubuga said.
She, however, stated that the fire was still raging on the Rwandan side of the park and that the authorities were using helicopters to subdue it.
â€œWe are making efforts to ensure it does not cross into Uganda from another point,â€ she added.
Nsubuga noted that the fire had not affected tourism activities, saying intervention was aimed at preventing it from spreading into the tourism trails.
She said the team created a fire-free zone by clearing away vegetation.
â€œWe created a barrier and when the winds calmed down, the fire fighters, including the communities, the UPDF and the park authorities beat off the fire using tree branches,â€ she explained.
â€œThe operation was commanded by a UPDF officer.â€
She said the authority had a good working relation with the communities, which explained the cooperation of the public.
â€œAlthough parks are strictly conservation areas, we allow the communities to collect honey and other forest products such as bamboo shoots, materials for handicraft and trap ants.
Nsubuga explained that the authority also shared park revenue with the communities.
Nsubuga refuted earlier media reports indicating that gorillas had fled to the DR Congo that would affect gorilla safaris tourism. As of now all gorilla tracking is going on undisrupted
Meanwhile, the Rwanda tourism board has said the gorillas were not harmed by the fire.
â€œThe area gutted by the fire is not in the proximity of the gorilla habitat, so tourism activities are going on without any interruption,â€ a statement by Rosette Rugamba, the deputy chief executive, said.
The statement noted that the affected area was 20km away from the habitat.
It quoted the chief park warden, Prosper Uwingeri, as saying the fire was lit by a farmer who was extracting honey in Volcanoes National Park.â€œThrough the trans boundary collaboration, efforts to stop the fire are still going on and respective wildlife agencies in Uganda safaris and Congo have been alerted,â€ said the statement.
It said the Rwanda disaster management authority, comprising the army, fire brigade, the police, the airforce and residents in the affected areas, were fighting the fire.