Tsavo Waterman: Family of Patrick Kilonzo Mwalua wants State to recognise his death

The family of renowned conservationist Patrick Kilonzo Mwalua, who died on Tuesday morning at the age of 51 after a 10-year battle with kidney failure, has called on the government and stakeholders to assist in the burial arrangements.

Mr Mwalua died at his home in Kajire village, Taita Taveta County, Kenya, while being taken to Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi for dialysis.

His death came as a shock not only to his close family but to the world at large. Known to many as the ‘Water Man of Tsavo’ or the ‘Elephant Man’, Mwalua came into the limelight in 2016 when he decided to jump into a bowser and replenish a waterhole frequented by elephants and other wildlife during the long drought that had hit the country.

Born in 1973 in Kajire village, Mwalua grew up in an agricultural neighbourhood at the foot of the Sagalla Hills that struggled with human-wildlife conflict, a problem that affected families in the community.

In 2013, he started working in conservation, trying to find solutions to the common challenges affecting his community through climate-smart agriculture projects in his village.

His passion grew into wildlife conservation, which led him to become an inspiration in his community and also globally as the only water man in Tsavo.

As a farmer, in 2016, during the prolonged dry season, Mwalua witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of climate change on wildlife.

Driven by his deep love for animals, he embarked on a mission to bring water to Tsavo’s parched lands to prevent wildlife from dying of thirst and dehydration.

During his extraordinary mission, he crisscrossed the vast Tsavo National Park, delivering much-needed water to thirsty elephants and other wildlife.

Armed with a water bowser, he made sure the animals did not congregate at any one water point, preventing predator conflict and promoting their survival.

His tireless efforts to provide clean water for wildlife earned him worldwide recognition and put Kajire Village on the map as a stopover for international conservationists visiting Patrick for benchmarking. Mwalua became an inspiration to many foreign conservationists who travelled to Kenya to witness his work.

However, the nobleman’s journey became a difficult one as his health deteriorated due to the failure of both his kidneys.

His wife, Rachel Kilonzo, told NTV that she was ready to continue Mwalua’s conservation work.

She said his efforts were nothing short of heroic.

“His passion was infectious. We will honour his memory by continuing to protect our precious wildlife,” she said.

She said that despite his illness, he always made sure that his projects were up and running and continued to have an impact on the community and the wildlife.

“Even when he could not move, he was always following up on his projects through phone calls. As a family we are inspired by his passion and hard work,” she said.

In his final days, he facilitated the procurement of a sunflower oil press to help local farmers in his community.

Family spokesman Jones Chengo said funeral arrangements were underway at his home in Kajire, where he lived.

The family plans to give him a proper send-off, celebrating his tireless efforts to protect the environment and wildlife.

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