The Voi river provides 210 kilometres of riverway with the essential life-giving sustenance that, in this part of the world, is sorely needed. The river originates in the Taita Taveta hills, it flows past the town at Voi and then travels through Tsavo East National Park.
Voi is the river that feeds into the Aruba dam. The dam, constructed in 1952, was built to provide a bulwark against water shortages in the area. As many regular readers, and each of you who have travelled to this incredible national park, will know, the habitat is naturally dry.
Tsavo is largely defined by its iron oxide red earth and by the hardy, squat vegetation that intersperses its termite mounds. It is not known for lush greenery and regular rainfall.
Damming the Voi river was, even in the 1950s, considered a necessary move. The wildlife protected in the Tsavo Conservation Area may here enjoy the ability to traverse Kenya’s largest interconnected protected area but they do not live an easy life. Of course, many, the elephant including, are adapted to the hardships inherent in this mode of existence.
That said, they are not impervious to it.
Intense drought conditions in the TCA, a cause for concern for elephant conservation
Lengthily, and too often, we have written recently about the effects of the drought that impacted Kenya for much of last year. The year 2022 was particularly dry and many media outlets were forced to report on the death of too many wild animals endemic to the east of Kenya.
Knowledgeable fans of the elephant population here in Tsavo will know that, during the drought, we also lost both Lugard and Dida, two truly iconic, and famous in their own right, elephant that have been a mainstay in the area for the best part of four decades.
In fact, the drought we witnessed in 2022 was just the extension of five rainy seasons of what is considered ‘less than average’ rainfall.
Those results present themselves as a serious cause for concern for many. The wildlife, obviously, has suffered. So too, of course, have the many peoples that live in this drought-stricken area of eastern Kenya.
Extension of drought conditions threatens the survival of Voi River
The Voi river has lengthily been considered at risk of running dry. A number of factors are considered as being at least in part to blame for the river’s degradation. Human activity and the reduced rainfall these past years are two of the main contributing factors.
Such is the worry around the continued degradation of this life-giving resource, that, in May of 2021, a rehabilitation programme was launched. However, with the reduced rainfall, and subsequent increased competition, between humans and wildlife, for water resources, rehabilitation does not seem to have been successful.
In fact, different Kenyan media outlets have now reported that the Voi river is in such a damaged state, it’s very existence is on the line. The Standard ran a headline four days ago stating that the Voi river “faces extinction”. The Star, at the end of last year, wrote of water sources drying up.
It would be unnecessary for us to inform you, our regular readership, of the challenges the Tsavo Conservation Area would face were this to happen. This habitat is, as has been stated, defined by its near constant dryness. Over the course of the last few years, conservation professionals and the KWS have been forced to create alternative water sources for the wildlife struggling through the extended drought.
Today, many of Tsavo’s wild animals are reliant on man-made water sources.
If we are to lose one of the life-giving natural sources of water, the precariousness of the situation, and Tsavo’s dependence on human orchestrated means of water provision, will only enlarge.