Mali Drought Continues – Rare Elephants Suffering

It’s been an intense week in Mali as WILD and our partner Save the Elephants (Kenya) have worked to help the suffering elephants. We’ve been at it on two fronts: internationally, with media and donors, and in the field in central Mali where STE expert Jake Wall has been coordinating our response.

In the early days of this intervention there’s good news and bad news – – which is not unexpected.

Locally, the DNCN, (Direction Nationale de la Conservation de la Nature , the Malian, national nature conservation department) has responded as well as possible, and the pumps are working with diesel fuel and supplies are on the way.

Baby elephant suffers from water shortage, Mali 2008. Photo by Jake Wall

In the key area of Lake Banzena, where the water in this only “permanent” mare (small lake) has completely disappeared, two pumps are now working at least 8 -10 hours a day…but this is barely scratching the surface of a complex issue.

In this very remote part of the very poor country of Mali there is no permanent, official DNCN staff present in this national “protected area.” But in response to this emergency they have staff on site. Nomadic herders from a huge area, some as far away as Mauritania, have brought their cattle to where they thought they would find permanent water, adding to the confusion and the competition for virtually non-existent moisture. Quite simply, the elephants are getting but little of the pumped water — the churned, muddy remnants provide but little relief for the elephants, and some of it is even toxic.

So, we continue. Our other local efforts concentrate on assisting national conservation officials, our partners in the Mali Elephant Project, and their staff on-the-ground at Lake Benzena and elsewhere to enforce the laws, help the elephants, and redirect the nomads to water points elsewhere that are especially set-up for cattle. We’re also working on a short term plan to get extra/new pumps to work, and build new structures to isolate and keep clean the elephant’s water.

At the same time we’re working on longer term solutions with local villages, so that this situation does not happen again. It is complicated, but it is possible. The good news in Mali is that these elephants are under no threat of poaching…it is not a cultural practice here. So at least we can concentrate on other issues, work with DNCN and local people, and find solutions for them, their life styles, and their cattle – -while we work for the elephant’s survival.

This is a complicated and expensive issue…but it is possible to solve. We have the expertise and experience. We have raised a small amount of money to get this intervention going. Your help is needed!

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