The man who drives hours to aid drought-affected animals

For a little over a year, Patrick Mwalua has been driving several hours a day to bring water to the parched animals.

March 16, 2017

Earlier this month, poachers killed a 50-year-old giant tusker elephant from Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. Saito II, named after another famed giant shot in 2014, was shot with a poisoned arrow. According to Richard Moller, of the Tsavo Trust, there are only about 25 of the giant tuskers remaining in the world. About 15 of these are in Kenya.

Every year, 30,000 elephants are slaughtered for their ivory. The estimated value of each of Saito II’s tusks was $130,000. The park’s team, together with the Kenyan Wildlife Service, managed to find the gentle giant’s carcass before the poachers could recover the ivory.

Saito II news came just two days after a KWS officer was reportedly killed during an anti-poaching incident in the park – the ranger was the second to die in less than a month at the hands of poachers.

This, of course, is a human problem, one that stems from our greed for objects. It’s not the first in the list of irresponsible things we do, neither is it the last. If you were to look for a silver lining in this pitch-black cloud, it would be that for every poacher related incident we have on this planet, we have a Patrick Mwalua. 

The Tsavo West National park that stretches for about 9,065 square kilometres was once known for its swamps, natural springs and rocky peaks. Today, that area is a little short of a barren wasteland. The scorching heat and drought has started taking a toll on its once thriving wildlife. Thanks, climate change.

Enter Patrick Mwalua. The pea farmer has been driving a truck filled with about 3,000 gallons of water through the dried up land each day for the past year. The 41-year-old Kenyan drives several hours per day to fill the park’s bone-dry watering holes.

“We aren’t really receiving rain the way we used to,” he told animal rights website The Dodo. “From last year, from June, there was no rain completely. So I started giving animals water because I thought, ‘If I don’t do that, they will die.’”

The elephants, buffaloes, antelopes and zebras have grown accustomed to their saviour’s arrival and even flock towards the watering hole when they hear his rumbling truck approaching in the distance.

Without Mwalua services, the animals would be forced to travel across the land to find watering holes. That would leave them exposed to poachers. Of particular concern for Mwalua, are the elephants. “Elephants are becoming endangered and we need to save the ones we have left by providing water for them until the drought peril is over.”

When he isn’t busy doing his tiring water runs, Mwalua runs a group called Tsavo Volunteers and visits local schools to talk to children about the importance of wildlife conservation.

Mwalua has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising enough money to meet the increased need for water. Until he meets his targets, he will continue to be the water boy.