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This Man Drives For Hours Every Day To Bring Water To Thirsty Animals

"If nobody does something, these animals will die. Instead of them dying, let me try my best."

Posted on March 17, 2017, at 12:16 p.m. ET

This is Patrick Mwalua, a 41-year-old pea farmer who is currently volunteering in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park.

Patrick Mwalua

The Kenyan government declared a national emergency last month following an ongoing drought that has ravaged large parts of the country. It is among five countries in East Africa experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. Mwalua said he was horrified by how animals have been affected, too.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

Mwalua decided to start trucking tanks of water to fill up dried waterholes in the park. He and a handful of volunteers make the grueling 44-mile round-trip to deliver 3,000 liters of fresh water up to three times a day.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

In rural Kenya, the drought has doubled the number of people facing severe food shortage to 2.7 million.

In semi-dry regions, the drought means cattle farmers are losing their livestock. As both humans and animals have to travel further to find water, competition for scarce resources has increased.

Thirsty elephants have rampaged through villages looking for water, sometimes with deadly results.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

In recent months, scenes of bone-dry earth have confronted Mwalua each time he went to the park. "The buffaloes were so weak. The zebras, they were restless, and the elephants were looking for water everywhere. I was like, oh my god, something must be done."

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

"Seven years ago we lost a lot of animals because of drought and nobody did anything. Last year again there was a very big drought and we lost animals again,” Mwalua told BuzzFeed News.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates the 2009 drought killed up to 40 percent of the animals in the national park.

Mwalua's water truck brings the elephants, buffalo, antelope and zebras running to waterholes.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

"They come surrounding my truck and don’t harm me because they know I’m here to help them," said Mwalua, whose repertoire of local nicknames include The Water Man, The Elephant Man and The Baboons' Godfather.

Courtesy of Patrick Mwalua

In addition to drought, poaching has also become a problem in wildlife sanctuaries, where everything from elephants to donkeys are at risk.

A little rainfall over the last couple of weeks has helped ease the effect of drought on Tsavo West Park.

Still, Mwalua said he is taking no chances. He is working to build more watering troughs to help prepare for future droughts — as Kenya, like other countries in the Horn of Africa, remains at risk.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.