Elephants in West Africa continue to struggle for survival during the worst drought in 26 years, reports African elephant conservation group Save the Elephants. With temperatures in the shade hitting 122 degrees Fahrenheit this season, the native cattlemen in Mali, who usually coexist peaceably with the 350 to 450 elephants, began conflicting with the herd over water availability. The herd is now forced to make longer trips for water, a hardship that has directly resulted in six known elephant deaths.
"The stench of rotting corpses fills the air, and what little water remains is putrid and undrinkable by all standards," Jake Wall, a scientist for Save the Elephants, described.
Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., of Save the Elephants blames climate change and overstocking of livestock for the shrinking and degradation of the elephants’ habitat. His organization, along with the WILD Foundation and the Mali government, has built a concrete water holding tank near Lake Banzena, where the elephants usually hydrate during the dry season.
"The elephants have now proceeded on their annual migration to the south in pursuit of the rains," says Hamilton. "I am not sure exactly how much rain has fallen, but there had been enough light rain to suppose that they now have water to drink." Hamilton adds that though the immediate crisis may be over, long-term planning in conjunction with the Malian government is still necessary for the sharing of water resources in this vulnerable area.