Five elephants dead in Kenya as UK soldiers start fire
Hundreds of British troops have been sent to help put out the fire on the dry scrubland
British Army has begun an investigation after five elephants, including a calf, were reportedly killed in Kenya as British troops started a fire.
Officials last night announced the investigation as the fires raged through 8,000 acres of the Lolldaiga training area, reports the Dailymail.
Although an emergency operation to put out the enormous fire continues, all military drills have been stopped.
Hundreds of British troops have been sent to help put out the fire on the dry scrubland.
Hundreds of tons of water were poured on the fire by British and Kenyan army helicopters last night. Military vehicles from the United Kingdom were on standby to evacuate people in the area.
On Wednesday night, four adult elephants are reported to have died in the blazes. According to local sources, they were stuck inside an area enclosed by electric fencing, which had been erected to prevent them from wandering into an area where British troops practice warfighting.
The cause of the fire, which began on Wednesday is being investigated by defense officials. Reportedly when troops were cooking a meal on a camping stove which accidentally set fire to dry grass.
According to official defense reports, the fire spread rapidly but no British soldiers were wounded.
A baby elephant is said to have been killed in a separate fire on a military training area in Kenya last week.
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).