Johannesburg – More than 550 hectares (5 acres) of Aberdare Forest was reportedly destroyed in the fire, presumed to have been initiated by arsonists.

Officials say fire is spreading rapidly across historic Aberdare National Park

“It is on the grasses, it is spreading and very windy,” said one official of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the official in charge of national parks, who spoke on condition of anonymity before saying that the fire has developed “very quickly” and is not authorized to speak to media.

The park’s name was made famous when the then British Queen Elizabeth II, a visiting Kenya princess, heard about her father’s death while staying at the Treetops Hotel, a remote wildlife refuge built high up in a tree in Aberdare forest.

Rhino Ark a wildlife group in Kenya said on Twitter it had used helicopters to inspect the extent of the damage to forest cover from the air.

The Mount Kenya Trust, a organisation supporting the nation’s forests, said a team had “headed up to help with the bushfires in the Aberdares”

The park operates around 100 km north of the capital, Nairobi.

The park is in the Aberdare Mountains, harbouring stunning waterfalls, lush bamboo forests and a diverse stock of wildlife including leopards, elephants and critically endangered black rhinos.

Aberdare National Park

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The Aberdare National Park is a protected area in the Aberdare Mountain Range in central Kenya located east of the East African Rift Valley. (wikipedia)