I went for a run yesterday, after the heat of the day had subsided as much as it could, and before the sun set followed quickly by the night. It was the first afternoon where the heat had really started, marking the end of the cold season and I started to feel thirsty and parched only midway through my run. It’s nowhere close to as hot as it will get later on. It was at most 95 at that moment a dry heat that pales in comparison to the 120 degrees heat of the coming months of the Sahelian hot season. I had run into the first part of the gardens and noticed the temperature difference- a 5 or 10 degree drop- but now as my thirst registered, I really appreciated the shade of the trees making an afternoon run in just bearable heat, actually comfortable.
The tammasheq proverb, Amane Iman, water is life, sounded in my head and I felt the basic instinct in all of us for survival. My need for water brought my thoughts to the elephants and their unquenchable thirst especially this time of year. All the populations, human and elephant, of the Gourma have evolved to survive the heat and lack of water. People here spend the hot part of the day in the shade, lying down, beat, conserving all energy and movement, only children moving to fetch water in response to the call from adults.
The elephants spend their days in the thickets, a haven of cooler temperatures and move to the watering holes at dusk and dawn. Their migration route has evolved and adapted to bring them to food in the rainy season when forage is most plentiful and to water in the hot season, only available in the less green north. They trek the route each year to survive the stresses of their habitat but if they didn’t migrate they would certainly die. The threats to this route now, including the lack of rain received at their main mare/ water supply this year, make it an all too possible outcome. WILD and Save the Elephants are working with the Malian government to repair the pumps that will fill the mares with water, saving the herd of over 500 elephants this year. The other stresses along the route continue to pose threats to their existence.
I continued through the gardens, running back towards my house to my own water, ever more conscious of what everyone here is up against.