An adult elephant can drink up to 50 gallons of water at a time. Keep reading to see why that might be relevant.
We often talk about the effects of prolonged drought: The loss of trees and vegetation it causes, the resulting erosion and dust, the drinking water shortages—some drastic, as in the case of Cape Town, South Africa. In parts of Kenya, years-long drought has been affecting animals as well, causing some mothers to abandon their offspring when they can’t find enough nutrition to continue nursing or nurturing them. In 2009, a drought resulted in the death of up to 40% of the animals in some wildlife preserves, killing far more elephants than poachers did.
Humans have stepped in to rescue many of these “orphans of the drought,” even setting up a nursery in the stables of the popular Sarara Camp, an eco-lodge in northern Kenya. The nursery has recently taken in three Grevy’s zebras, three baby giraffes, and a kudu, among others. Once they’re old enough to fend for themselves, the animals are returned to the wild.
Not everyone is on board with the rescue efforts, though—farmers whose livelihood is threatened by the drought see the animals as competition for scarce water resources. As streams and watering holes run dry, elephants, desperate for water, have raided villages and farms, in some cases causing human fatalities.
People have tried to alleviate the problem by trucking in water and, as a longer-term solution, adding new sources of water by digging boreholes and setting up windmills to provide power to pump water from the ground. Such a setup can provide enough water for a herd of elephants. The problem, some conservationists say, is that the new water sources also attract livestock, bringing domestic animals, humans, and wild animals into closer contact, often with disastrous results.