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Raging Brush Fire Destroys Vast Land Tracts in Zimbabwe National Park - 2003-10-07

A raging bush fire in one of Zimbabwe's national parks has destroyed vast tracts of land and sent wild animals fleeing into unprotected areas.

Officials at the Matopos National Park say they do not know what caused the blaze, which has burned many hectares of dry grass, trees and shrubs since Sunday. But Zimbabwe state radio said poachers were suspected of starting the fire. Poachers are known to set fire to the brush to drive out wild animals.

The Matopos park is famous for its distinctive hill formations and ancient rock paintings. It is also home to many animal species, including white rhinos and antelope. The park's Matobo Hills have been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, making it an internationally protected area. It is located near Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo.