Wildfires are a factor that many national parks and protected areas must deal with, and although there are many benefits to these fires that sweep through the landscapes, it is still a rather daunting and scary challenge to handle. This is especially true for areas undergoing rewilding, as it directly threatens the newly introduced wildlife.
Just over a week ago, the Zinave National Park team became aware of several large fires approaching the sanctuary. Immediately, they sprang into action!
Adding fuel to wildfires
After a long, dry winter for many areas in southern Africa, including Zinave National Park in Mozambique, the grasslands are dry, and the moisture in the ground is at an all-time low. This is the perfect recipe for a wildfire to run rampant, with the landscape resembling a tinderbox before the summer rains arrive.
Although it has not been determined how these wildfires were started, something like the smallest spark, lightning or even the sun’s blaze alone can set off an inferno, spreading rapidly through the dry vegetation.
A team to be reckoned with
As soon as the team were alerted to the danger at hand, the park’s staff immediately assessed the situation and decided where the biggest threats were and where the best place would be to make a stand. Once this was determined, they started backburning at the first line for the biggest approaching fire and got to work extinguishing any of the smaller ones as quickly as they could.
The fires burned over a front of about 5 kilometres with strong winds behind it. Luckily, they were successfully stopped at the first line, saving the park’s richly biodiverse sanctuary ecosystem and the more than 5 000 animals that call it home.
It’s not all bad
Although wildfires can decimate an area in a matter of minutes, they also play an important role in maintaining a balanced ecological system. Fires like this help the immediate areas around them as they increase soil quality and allow new vegetation to grow.
In fact, it is not uncommon for protected areas across the world to engage in controlled burns every few years, which helps to stimulate new grass growth. This process often only burns the top layer of dead material, keeping the root systems and their food reserves intact. You can read more about this here.
Peace Parks Foundation is so proud of Zinave’s dedicated team, who worked tirelessly throughout the night, putting themselves at risk to ensure that Zinave’s future remains intact.