Fires being deliberately set all across Africa are having a dire effect on the continent’s ecosystems, a wildlife expert warned during a recent U.N. Environment Programme conference on African mountains. Many different groups are responsible for setting the fires, said Kenya Wildlife Service warden Bongo Woodley. These include arsonists hoping the government will give them the scorched land; squatters seeking to clear vegetation for grazing; honey-gatherers trying to smoke bees from the trees; and people who believe that starting fires will bring rain. The fires destroy forests that are critical to soaking up water from Africa’s mountainous regions; without them, rivers can flood in the rainy season and stop flowing entirely in the dry season.

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