The Ewaso Nyiro River is one of the only permanent sources of fresh water in the Samburu region of Kenya. It acts as a vital lifeline for both wildlife and for the local people and their livestock. Yet, during the Samburu dry season, no significant rain falls, meaning the river is empty and the landscape gets drier and dustier with each passing day.
While carnivores like lions tend to thrive during the dry season, it can be a challenging time for other species. In March, at the height of the dry season, Ewaso Lions gathered together an enthusiastic team of “diggers,” including Ewaso Lions staff, members of their Warrior Watch and Mama Simba programs, and several Westgate Conservancy Rangers. Their mission was to dig waterholes for wildlife and the local community.
The entire team arrived at the dry riverbed early on March 15 to make the most of the cooler morning temperatures. Keen to lay rest to false claims that women would be unable to challenge the men in digging proficiency, the team split into two groups.
While some of the warriors and elders made a start on the first of the watering holes, the female contingent headed up the riverbed, narrowly avoiding a family of elephants that had beaten them to the digging in one location! Elephants proved not to be the only impediment to digging operations. One of the warriors’ waterholes had to be prematurely abandoned as Naramat and Lentim – the two lions who have recently taken up residence in the Core Conservation Area – decided that the adjacent bushes would be a perfect spot to feed on waterbuck.
Nevertheless, after a competitive start, the women, warriors and elders all joined forces and managed to complete six decent-sized waterholes. The ladies from the Mama Simba program even managed to dig in style, fully adorned with their impressive jewelry.
After digging the holes, the Ewaso Lions team monitored to see which species came to drink and spotted lion tracks and one of the holes near where Naramat and Lentim were feeding. Luckily, the rains finally came to Samburu a few weeks after the holes were finished, but in the meantime they provided life-sustaining water to many of the creatures that make Samburu their home.