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In this image made from video, fires burn on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Tanzanian authorities say 500 volunteers have been trying to put out a fire on Africa's tallest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
AP Photo
Environment

Fires on Mount Kilimanjaro Signal an Ecosystem in Decline

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Mount Kilimanjaro has faced a range of threats in recent years, ranging from climate change to illegal logging to reckless tourism. The United Nations calls on countries to engage in broad environmental restoration to achieve Global Goal 13. You can join us in taking action on related issues here

Fires have burned for six days on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, raising concerns about a broader ecological decline on Tanzania’s internationally celebrated peak, according to the New York Times.

The flames were likely started by a mismanaged cooking fire that the crews have so far been unable to contain, largely because of a lack of resources.

Hundreds of volunteers have had to join the effort to extinguish the blaze because of the threat it poses to the fragile ecosystems, Al Jazeera reported.

Helicopters, which would help teams better contain the fire, have been hard to secure. 

“They are now scrambling for a few helicopters,” Padili Mikomangwa, an environmentalist based in Dar es Salaam, told the New York Times. “But this episode shows that we need to take robust measures to better care for our resources and ensure we end this fire once and for all.”

The fires have been limited to the eastern side of the mountain, according to Deutsche Welle (DW), which means that it’s unlikely that endemic species will be wiped out.

But the fire has brought up important questions around conservation. 

Mount Kilimanjaro has been threatened by water and air pollution, as well as illegal logging and poaching ventures, according to the New York Times. Tourism also poses a threat, as people trample fragile areas, leave waste behind, and fuel cottage industries that harvest the area’s resources. 

At the same time, tourism is a crucial job creator and source of revenue for Tanzania, so reform efforts may focus on developing more sustainable options going forward.

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More pressing, however, is the threat of climate change, which has disrupted precipitation patterns in the area and has caused the mountain’s ice caps to melt.

Other fires in recent years have been partly triggered by increasingly dry conditions, DW reported. Around the world, climate change and biodiversity loss threaten to destroy coral reefs, ancient forests, agricultural breadbaskets, and much more.

For Mount Kilimanjaro to remain a marvel attracting visitors far and wide, greenhouse gas emissions have to be curbed.