"If you are not filled with overflowing love, compassion and goodwill for all creatures living wild in nature, You will never know true happiness."
Wildlife is fascinating. I had the privilege of witnessing this at a very tender age on my numerous visits to my grandmother’s home who lived just across the Maasai tribe.
Our relationship as the Kalenjin tribe with the wildlife was however conflicted. My people didn’t see them for their beauty & heritage but as a source of food or a threat to our livelihood. The wild cats would stray at night to the neighborhood and kill the livestock for food. The people, in turn, killed the herbivores animals that found their way into the villages for food too. The culprits that preyed on the livestock were hunted down and killed too. It was a vicious cycle. Unlike our neighbors, the Maasai people who don’t eat game meat & live harmoniously with wildlife.
I remember spending nights in my grandmother’s huge hut in the company of goats and calves, to save them from wild animals. My grandma would point to the distant hills of Kipleleon as the source of wild animals that ate her livestock. It is a big imposing hill and was held in the mystery of wildlife plains behind it. Our evening stories were all centered on the giant hill, wild animals & the warriors (hunters).
In January 2015 during a routine, like I always did since I was young, I decided to finally make the journey across to the Maasai Mara plains. It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. Wildlife was roaming freely and they were in big numbers. I saw the towering giraffes, the grazing gazelles, the hundreds of wildebeests, zebras, elephants, the amazing bright sunset colors…the beauty of this scenery was endless. It was a theatre in the wild.
On that sweltering January, I noticed most of the animals were huddled in groups under the few acacia trees that dotted the plains. They looked emaciated and dehydrated. That is when the idea of providing drinking water to wildlife begun. I resolved to help alleviate the water problem in my own small way and made it my life’s mission to find immediate and sustainable water sources solutions for our wildlife and the communities that live among them. To create awareness and add it to the global water crisis agenda. But I noticed that if I had to help the animals, I had to start with the people.
I partnered with the local community and a few volunteers and together we dug the first water pan connected to a nearby spring to be used by the community. It was a great success! The people & the livestock had water. Something else also happened…late in the evening and at night, all types of wild animals would come to the water pan to drink water. Elephants, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, basically all animals imaginable… an unintended consequence! We realized we needed to urgently dig a separate water pan that separated both wildlife and the community. We partnered with the game rangers of Lemek Conservancy and we dug another water pan in the park for the wildlife. We have dug a total of 4 water pans and currently, we are preparing to dig our 9th one.
The Maasai Mara ecosystem is expansive. With my limited resources, I can only do so much to provide the most basic and essential element of life WATER! It was important that we had a platform to convey this crucial need for the survival of our wildlife, the communities that live among them and the entire ecosystem. Together with some members of Lemek Conservancy, we formed a Community Based Organization called Water4Wildlife. We are now looking for partners and donations to help provide water to both wildlife and for domestic use. These donations will enable us to excavate more water pans, and sink boreholes.
Join me in making this life mission a reality, to ensure the “gem” that is the Maasai Mara ecosystem and the rest of wildlife reserves in Kenya is passed to posterity, intact for the next generations.
Cherop de Harder, Founder Water4Wildlife