The ministry of environment says although the fire that started burning east of the Etosha National Park was extinguished without any major wildlife losses, damages to equipment or park infrastructure, it, however, destroyed some power line poles.
The Central North Regional Electricity Distributor (CenoRed) is currently busy replacing the damaged power lines.
The ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said the fire that has been burning east of the national park has been suppressed to a manageable level by last week Tuesday.
The blaze started outside the national park on 6 October 2020.
Initially, the ministry decided to allow the inferno to burn after it entered the park on 10 October.
The fire burned in the park for 10 days, covering a total area of 2 545 km².
On 15 October, Muyunda said, the ministry decided to suppress the fire so that it does not spread any further.
“The ministry has noted concerns from members of the public regarding the fire. We wish to assure the public that the fire was not in any way destructive even though it may have appeared as such from the pictures and videos that were distributed. To the contrary, the fire will stimulate the regrowth of grass with the rain season approaching,” he defended.
In recent years, fire management approaches have been introduced into the protected areas, particularly Etosha National Park and the parks in the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions, under the premise that fire can be used as an appropriate management tool to actively maintain and rehabilitate all terrestrial habitats within the parks.
Muyunda said the implementation of this practice was successful in controlling veld fires and reducing the area burnt annually and shifting the seasonality of burning to the early dry season in the protected areas.
In managing the fire, the ministry deployed officials, a grader, a water tank truck as well as a fixed-wing aircraft to monitor and control the fire.
Also, the ministry has implemented back burning from strategic areas to stop the fire from encroaching into the Namutoni and Halali resorts and Okaukuejo area inside the park as well as commercial farms in the areas.
Muyunda said the fire has produced a mosaic or patchwork of burnt and unburnt vegetation which meet the criteria for fire management in Etosha National Park.
He said the ministry can provide maps for such patches.
To date, Muyunda reported numerous game species, including zebras, springbok and gemsbok have been observed to feed on the recently burnt patches, which illustrates that there are ample food resources for the game in the park.
“The fire in Etosha National Park was managed following the ministry’s fire management strategy for protected areas. The fire strategy within our protected areas network is done on a sound scientific basis and continuous monitoring to ensure that the biodiversity consisting of plant and animal communities is maintained within set targets,” he maintained.
Since the 2011 review of the fire management approach of the Etosha National Park, the park has been subdivided into seven fire zones which replace the previously used 26 fire blocks.
The zones are demarcated mainly on soil and vegetation characteristics.
Moreover, each zone is accessible through a network of roads and firebreaks.
This he says facilitates the implementation of the mosaic burning programme and the logistical effectiveness with which rapid adjustments could be made to either allow or suppress the burning.