By Alex Jones
‘EMOTIONALLY shattering’ photos show exhausted, parched animals draw their final breaths as their only source of water evaporates in what is said to be one of the MOST SEVERE DROUGHTS in DECADES.
The devastating photos taken last week at Lake Ngami – in the southern portion of the Okavango delta of Botswana – show herds of animals dying of dehydration as a severe drought ravages the region.
Tragic photos show a bloat of malnourished hippos crowded together in one of the very few remaining mud pools as fisherman collect the final few catfish in the background; a dying horse attempting to kick his way through the crusty mud in a vain search for water; and a forlorn cow caked and trapped in the bog awaiting its grisly fate.
Another striking aerial shot shows desperate farmers hauling in the final few catfish from the lake before they also perish under blistering south African skies whilst the video shows scavenging birds picking at the remains of the poor animals which have succumbed to the deathly conditions. Last September, Lake Ngami hosted its own Fish Festival and angling tournament showing just how devastating the recent dry spell has been.
Although nobody is sure the drying of the lake is directly due to climate change, Lake Ngami has not dried up entirely for nearly 40 years and the lake is just the latest in a list of bodies of water that have disappeared as a desperate drought ravages the southern hemisphere. The El Nino effect may also have affected the region with up to 38,000 at risk by the rapidly diminishing water levels.
“I can’t say this is in anyway directly linked to climate change as it has happened before in the 1980s I heard – but perhaps it’s a forewarning of what is to come,” says 64-year-old wildlife photographer Martin Harvey who captured these sobering shots.
“The Okavango varies with good years and bad years. I believe Lake Ngami has dried up in the past before – many years ago. But I guess the simple answer is that this is one of the most severe droughts to hit the area in decades.
“The lake is drying up after having water for many years, and hippos are starving to death as there is no grass left in the area. Cattle are getting stuck in the mud trying to get to the water and subsequently dying of thirst. There is simply no other water in the area. As the Lake dries up people are catching the last of the catfish but who knows what will happen next.”
For the veteran wildlife photographer, this shoot was one of the most difficult he has ever undertaken.
“It was traumatising,” he admits.
“The smell is appalling, and the animals’ suffering left me emotionally shattered. People are horrified by what’s happening.
“I’m sure for the livestock owners it must be economically devastating. I only spoke to the fisherman who are trying to take advantage of catching the fish before the all die. They are poor people desperately trying to make any money they can. The lake will be completely dry in a few weeks at this rate so there is still more death to come.”