We are breathing a sigh of relief as it has been raining since the beginning of June and so far the rains are good! This year was very tough for the elephants. Usually they rely on the lake of Banzena for water at this time of year, but this year it was crowded with huge numbers of cattle and reduced to a muddy puddle. The cattle returned to the river Niger where water is plentiful, but the journey was too far for the elephants who needed water quickly and they cannot use water from the wells along the way.
And so the elephants dispersed to find water where they could. One such place, the Teze waterhole and forest, sheltered 41 of them through this tough period, but it was almost not the case. A few months ago a group of farmers from the south wanted to cut down the forest to make irrigated gardens, but the local community was able to prevent this through an official agreement (or convention), facilitated by WILD. This convention sets rules of use of land, pasture, water and forest, and designates the whole of the Teze forest and waterhole for elephant use. The community wanted this because they noticed that elephants used it a great deal and would sometimes give birth there.
As a result of the community’s work, 41 elephants found refuge. At the same time the protective cover of vegetation remained intact preventing soil and water loss, protecting useful species (e.g. food, medicines, mats, baskets, ropes ) and helping the forest regenerate.
Some elephants collected around the lake at Dimamou, another area where WILD is working with the community in a similar way. A small group of around 8 bold male elephants dare to inhabit a small remaining patch of marshy forest close to the busy Lake Gossi that is surrounded by a town. The female herds do not want to risk bringing their young so close to human activity.
Other groups of elephants dug in the dry stream beds to find water while others followed the scent of the small initial rain-showers carried on the wind to drink from small puddles. One group tried to make their way to the river, but it was too far for some of their babies to travel – and they died before they got there. However, there were many babies born last year and it seems that these were the only ones who did not survive. And, now that the rains arrived, things are (for now) calm.