Patrick Kilonzo, the 'Waterman of Tsavo' dies

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Patrick Kilonzo Mwalua pumps fresh water from his truck to one of the water holes around Sarova Taita Wildlife Sanctuary 2018. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Patrick Mwalua Kilonzo, the man who gained global recognition for delivering water to famished wild animals in Tsavo has died. According to family sources, Kilonzo died on Tuesday due to kidney complications.

His nephew, Paul Mwamvula, said Kilonzo, 51, died while the family was preparing to take him to a Voi Hospital for a dialysis procedure.

“Yes, we have lost him. He had been battling kidney failure for 10 years but continued with his wildlife conservation works. He also contracted malaria and due to low immunity, he had become very weak and was referred to Mombasa for further treatment before returning home where he died shortly thereafter,” said Mwamvula.

Kilonzo, who was known as the “Waterman of Tsavo”, shot to the limelight in 2016 when, during a long drought, he hired a water bowser to deliver water into Tsavo West National Park and the adjoining Lumo Wildlife Conservancy.

“I had visited a waterhole in Tsavo when I came across this buffalo that was staring into the empty waterhole. I came back home and started hiring a truck to ferry water to the animals,” Kilonzo said in a previous post.

Kilonzo had taken on the daunting task of providing water to wild animals including elephants, where a single animal can consume up to 200 litres of water a day. With little personal funds, Kilonzo relied on well-wishers in Kenya and abroad.

“When I was growing up, I never saw people give much attention to wild animals. Now, as a grown man, I want to do something,” he told the AFP in an interview.

Patrick Mwalua was awarded by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in recognition of his extraordinary act of providing fresh water to wildlife in Tsavo National Park. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Despite his noble cause, some naysayers told him to let nature take its course, but he would interject that what was happening in Tsavo had nothing to do with nature but was a result of climate change.

Besides providing water to wild animals, Kilonzo had been spearheading efforts to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts by encouraging farming practices that reduce such conflicts, including planting sunflowers, and plants that repel elephants.

The father of two girls and the 2019 recipient of the Head of State Commendation, will be buried in Kajire, Taita Taveta, on Friday next week. 

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