Water for wildlife

Delivering innovative water solutions to support wildlife in habitats that suffer from limited rainfall and drought

Working primarily in the arid Tsavo Conservation Area and Lamu Conservation Area, locations that historically suffer from limited rainfall and drought which can devastate wildlife populations, we work to provide permanent and temporary water sources to relieve suffering.


Boreholes drilled


Water bowsers


Litres of water distributed

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The problem

Water shortages are increasingly becoming a fact of life, especially in arid areas like the Tsavo Conservation Area for a myriad of reasons.

  • Climate change is altering long established weather patterns leading to less frequent and less predictable rainfall. 
  • Failed rains see dry seasons tip into droughts, leading to already limited natural water sources like rivers to dry up. Since 2009, hundreds of elephants have died from the effects of drought in Kenya, due to the scarcity of food and water.
  • When livestock illegally enters the Park, competition for food and water ensues and soil degradation occurs, making it harder for plants to survive. Subsequent conflict between herders and wildlife can have fatal consequences for both. 
  • Deforestation and illegal charcoal burning also degrades soil and speeds up desertification.
  • Degradation of Kenya's water towers and vital coastal forests needed to draw the rain results in less rainfall and water catchment.

Providing water for wildlife

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the issue of water shortages and relief measures that are successful in one region may not work in another. In recognising this, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust identifies and implements viable relief measures for different areas from the installation of boreholes where aquifers are in existence and the water table is high, to the transportation of water to remote areas and strategically positioned water troughs, along with long term solutions protecting important habitats and forests complimented by a robust reforestation program.


Operating eight water bowsers, five of which have a capacity of 20,000 litres, we have the ability to rapidly transport 124,000 litres of water at any one time. Filling up the bowsers from our network of boreholes or rivers, we bring some relief to drought-stricken areas and places of importance to wildlife. This includes the drinking troughs at our Reintegration Units, which are utilised by the orphaned elephants in our care, as well as visiting wild herds. In addition to this SWT donated three water bowsers to the Kenya Wildlife Service in 2018 and 2019.


With the help of hydrology experts and in support of the Kenya Wildlife Service, we have drilled 32 boreholes, including 29 boreholes in the Tsavo Conservation Area.

These lifelines tap into water tables beneath the ground and are strategically placed in locations far from human settlements, providing elephants and all wild animals with access to ample water. A further three boreholes have been drilled by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park (one) and Amu Ranch (two).

Utilising mostly wind or solar energy to power our pumps, the Trust undertakes weekly maintenance, as well as servicing and repairs when required, to ensure the boreholes remain productive and effective at all times.


In 2014, with the support of the KWS, we constructed a dam outside Amboseli National Park as part of an agreement with local communities to stop the unauthorised use of the Park’s water reserves, providing relief for local communities and the iconic elephants of this region.

We also dredge and deepen waterholes and monitor pipelines that run through the Tsavo Conservation Area, modifying any steep banks to ensure young calves can easily exit water points.

Temporary water relief

Utilising tractors, trucks and water bladders, we support the Lamu Conservation Trust by undertaking drought mitigation measures in the Lamu Conservation Area. This region has increasingly suffered from poor rains in recent years (with the exception of 2018) and having strategically positioned more than 25 troughs, we can carry out daily re-filling activities during times of drought.

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