11-09-2019 by Giovanna Grampa
The absence of rainfall in August confirmed the drought alarm launched by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) leaving the savannah as dazed by the rain deficit.
The Tsavo wears all the attenuated nuances of the dry season, the sun burns the savannah and the wind does not stop blowing with violent gusts, laden with dust raised by a sadly dry and dry land. Short rains of little consistency have not given rise to a new season.
And to help the animals, what changed in August?
"Water for elephants" seems to be the slogan that some private individuals have made them inspired by the title of the novel by Sara Gruen from which the film of the same name was taken. Honorary Wardens, private associations and ordinary citizens have financially supported various projects to fill some ponds and reservoirs now dried up. In the area of Irima, near the pilar 102 and the Pipeline, for a few days now animals have been changing to drink fresh water again carried by tankers with a capacity of ten thousand liters.
In Aruba, in front of the Ashnill lodge, the DWST (David Sheldrich Wildlife Trust) is completing the construction of a third pool powered by the existing wind turbine and modifying the rectangular drinking trough to make it more efficient, giving even small animals the possibility to drink without problems. It seems impossible to believe but, in turn, we have seen families of elephants, giraffes, lions wandering around curious and guarding to check out the new works, imitating pensioners who spend hours watching the construction sites of public works along the city streets. To support these private initiatives, a few weeks ago, small ponds and Pipeline rivers appeared, the result of providential disconnections of the worn joints of the pipes that carry water from Mzima Springs in Tsavo West to Mombasa.
The pipes covered with about one meter of earth are in some places deteriorated and are periodically repaired by the company that has the contract for maintenance. More and more often either the welds do not hold or there are leaks here and there resulting in the formation of small puddles.
The animals enjoy the fresh spring water while the tourists can admire unforgettable and exciting scenes even from a close distance. There are also areas where the existing reservoirs will be filled only with the advent of rain but here the elephants do not lose heart and to meet the need for water do not disdain to dig in the dry bed of seasonal rivers.
With their front legs they dig into the sand until they reach a more compact wet layer and with their trunk they penetrate into the groundwater table even up to one metre deep, drawing fresh water which, going up again, remains on the surface, giving the possibility to other animals to quench their thirst. The real problem remains food! Few areas where the vegetation is still green.
Along the Galana river the food is more nutritious and along the shore often from the bushes you can see backs of elephants tearing leaves.
In the driest areas everyone eats dry and continues the barking of trees by hungry elephants while their pups are learning the art of making do feeding on dry branches imitating the movements of adults. Hippos are also suffering from a lack of water in the river and a lack of food suitable for feeding them along the shore. Herbivores, too, are coming out of the water at night to graze, but more and more often they are pushing towards the mouth of the river, devastating entire harvests and exacerbating dangerous conflicts with villagers.
Great opportunities instead for the lions that hunt facilitated by the concentration of animals near the pools of water.
Satisfied, they lie lazily at dawn to wake up at sunset: their puppies are growing stronger every day and for them life runs smoothly. And when the lion doesn't hunt, the animals that are his natural prey show an incredible confidence and look at him without running away. Today the Tsavo in many areas seems an inhospitable land where you need to know how to adapt and all the animals that gravitate in this place have learned to draw on the hidden strength of the savannah.
In the sky at times some clouds appear, a vain promise, but the water so much needed for the vegetation still does not arrive and no significant rainfall is expected in a short time. The problem of drought is certainly not new and the Tsavo finds itself fighting the absence of rains for another prolonged period that we hope will end soon.
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