By Mark Nicol Defence Editor For The Daily Mail 22:00 25 Mar 2021, updated 22:43 25 Mar 2021
- Five elephants, including a calf, have reportedly been killed in the fires started by UK soldiers in Kenya
- The fires continued to rage over 8,000 acres of the Lolldaiga training area
- The fire reportedly started when troops cooking a meal on a camping stove accidentally set light to dry grass
Five elephants, including a calf, have reportedly been killed in fires started by UK soldiers in Kenya, prompting an investigation by the British Army.
Officials confirmed the probe last night as the most recent of the fires continued to rage over 8,000 acres of the Lolldaiga training area.
All military exercises have been suspended while an emergency operation to put out the huge blaze continues.
Hundreds of UK troops are being deployed to fight the fire, beating back the flames on the dry scrubland. Huge blaze: The fire seen beyond military vehicles in the 8,000 acres of the Lolldaiga training area, near Nanyuki, Kenya
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Last night British and Kenyan army helicopters were pouring hundreds of tons of water on to the blaze. UK military vehicles were on standby to evacuate those living nearby.
Four adult elephants are feared to have perished in the flames on Wednesday night. They were trapped inside an area surrounded by electric fencing, which had been erected to prevent them wandering into area where British troops practice warfighting, according to local reports.
Defence chiefs are investigating the cause of the fire, which reportedly started on Wednesday when troops cooking a meal on a camping stove accidentally set light to dry grass.
The fire spread quickly but no British soldiers were injured, according to official defence sources.
A baby elephant is said to have been killed in a separate fire on a military training area in Kenya last week.African elephants similar to those who have reportedly died A British solder posted on Snapchat about a fire
In this incident Royal Military Police officers apparently set off a flare in a bid to disperse a herd of elephants. But the flare is said to have set light to a bush, trapping a calf.
The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the reported deaths of the elephants. More than 1,000 British troops are currently taking part in military exercises in Kenya. Some have vented their frustration about the fires on social media.
One soldier wrote in a message sent via social media site Snapchat: ‘Two months in Kenya later and we’ve only got eight days left. Been good, caused a fire, killed an elephant and feel terrible about it but hey-ho, when in Rome.’ This post is believed to refer to last week’s inferno rather than the fire which is still ablaze.
The Ministry of Defence said last night: ‘We can confirm there has been a fire during a UK-led exercise in Kenya and that investigations are ongoing.
‘All personnel have been accounted for and now our priority is to urgently assist the local community if they have been impacted. We are putting our resources into containing the fire and are working closely with the Kenyan authorities to manage the situation.
‘The exercise has been paused while conditions on the ground can be fully assessed.’ It comes as both species of the African elephant were yesterday classed as endangered for the first time, according a ‘red list’ of at-risk animals by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Most British troops on exercise in Kenya are from the 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment (2 Mercs). Last week Army chiefs announced it will be axed as part of the Government’s Integrated Review of defence and security.
There are 230 military personnel permanently based in Kenya to train visiting UK troops and Kenyan forces. Most are part of the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK).