A changing climate in Tsavo: Relief for farmers and wildlife alike as the rains arrive and the drought is broken
Report written by Georgia Troup, Elephants and Bees PhD student
About 8 months ago I wrote a blog outlining some of the devastating effects we experienced due to the 2017 drought. This follow-up blog details some of the ups and downs that Tsavo has experienced from then until now, with the drought finally broken and balance having been restored in the ecosystem.
After the previous 12 months of drought, we were all desperately anticipating the short rains of October/November last year. They came, but not for long, which resulted in mixed effects for the Tsavo ecosystem. On one hand, these short rains were enough to bring new life to Tsavo East N.P. The waterholes filled, the grass grew tall and a vibrant green, the mammals started playing again, and the birds were continuously singing. Everything was better. It’s amazing to see the difference a little bit of rain can make!
On the other hand, the fleeting rains were not enough to relieve the farmers of Sagalla. Everyone excitedly ploughed and planted their shamba’s at the prospect of their first harvest all year, but just like this time the year before, the crops were not strong enough to reach maturity, and few farmers managed to harvest anything..
As the early months of the new year rolled on, we all were desperate for the long rains to arrive in full force – and to everyone’s relief they have! Tsavo East N.P. is looking greener and more spectacular than ever. From the beginning of March the long rains have showered the Park with consistent rains, turning it into a little slice of heaven. Some nights we have so much rain that the following day it would be near impossible to drive through the Park without a 4X4, and many of the roads resemble very long, flooded mud piles. It’s often been quite difficult to collect data for my research since the rains have arrived, as most of the elephants have moved deep into Park (because they’re not forced to stay around particular water points anymore), but even so this is a time to cherish and be thankful for!
Across the highway in Sagalla, our farmers have finally experienced the rain they need to see their shamba’s thrive. Over the last couple of months we have received the most rain I have seen in the entire 18 months I have been here, and it’s brought so much happiness to our little community. Everyone is working so hard on their shamba’s, and they’re all full of beautiful maize, green grams, cow peas, pigeon peas and more. Each morning on my way to the Park I see the maize growing so high that it’s difficult to see the houses. It’s a completely different place to this time last year, and it’s wonderful. Over the next couple of weeks the farmers will be starting to harvest their crops – a task that is usually so routine, but is now extra exciting! Let’s hope the elephants stay fat and happy in the Park, and no one has any unexpected night-time visitors to their farms over the coming few weeks…
If the rains hadn’t returned this year, I don’t want to think about the alternative situation we could be in currently. More elephants would have died, and more farmers would have gone hungry. The unpredictable nature of climate change in Tsavo is a stark reminder that each and every one of us around the world is feeling the effects of climate change – whether you can’t grow crops to feed your family, or your summer has lasted longer and you’ve been able to spend more time with your friends at the beach. I’m fittingly writing this blog on Earth Day, a day to celebrate Earth and all that it’s done for us, and to recognise that we need give back for what we have taken. Earth is our home, and we all need to do our bit to protect her!