We have just had an update from Gary. As usual at this time of year, the heat is indescribable, reaching temperatures of 42 Celsius, and all the pans are under severe pressure. There are huge numbers of elephant at all the waterholes and Nyamandhlovu Pan has about 1500-2000 elephants that visit every day! For those that know Hwange, we are now pumping water into the long trough at the far side (east) of the pan rather than the broken trough close to the platform. Recently we installed a new 110mm pipe all the way (over 100 meters) to this trough in an effort to maximize the water from the two new solar pumps.
When Gary measured the flow at 10.30 in the morning it was 14,500L per hour, an amount that is substantially more than the 3,500-4000l per hour pumped in the past by the diesel engine. We are also pumping this pan at night using a generator. The nett result is about 200,000L per 24 hours, which is about double what the diesel engine supplied. But this is still not enough as the elephant numbers are overwhelming. It is one thing providing water to drink but in addition the animals are using it on their bodies to cool themselves down otherwise they overheat and die.
Ngweshla is also under enormous pressure despite the fact that we are pumping 150,000L per day there - at least 50% more than ever before.
Most pans are in a similar situation as far as water is concerned and the excessive heat is a worry.
All pumps are working to capacity and supplying as much water as possible in order to minimize the casualties. Many animals are exhausted with very low energy levels due to limited food intake. We badly need rain soon to cool things down otherwise we will certainly have a number of deaths - there have not been too many so far, but mothers and small calves are most vulnerable.
On the whole the solar pumps are performing well and supplying more water than the diesel engines ever did with the added advantage that they are more reliable and don't need constant attention. Although times are tough, it could be much worse!
Thus far, due to the generosity of many donors, we have managed to install 28 solar pumps at 18 pans - a huge feat especially as new boreholes needed to be drilled at most pans so we would have 2 pumps working by day. The most recent installation was at Livingi and this was kindly sponsored by Phatisa.
We still have a way to go to complete the project to ensure we are better placed in the future to cope with the increasing heat and erratic rainfall.
We also facilitate animal rescue; usually the removal of snares but also animals stuck in the mud that Gary has to pull out with the tractor. For the last few months there has been a regional shortage of immobilizing drugs, which has been disappointing as it is heartbreaking to watch animals suffer and not be in a position to help. Fortunately a shipment has just arrived in the country. Thank you to Hwange Conservation Society UK for sponsoring the drugs needed and some of the diesel this work requires. And of course we extend enormous gratitude to Paul de Montile for the rescue work he does in the Park.
Lets hope for some rain and some cooler weather soon to alleviate this desperate situation.
We are very sad to inform readers that Jericho the Lion, Cecil's coalition partner, died a few days ago. It was a totally natural death; he lived and died a magnificent, free, wild lion. The Hwange community will miss him sorely, as will many people the world over that followed his life.
Thank you to Chris Collyer for kindly sharing his wonderful photographs.
Finaly, a grateful thank you to ZOL Zimbabwe who proudly power our internet, free of charge.