Animals in ASAL areas Are Survivors: How They Cope with Ecological Drought

Updated: Oct 7

Animals Have Evolved Unique Ways to Cope with Ecological Drought

In arid and semiarid lands (ASALs), where water is a limited resource, animals have evolved unique ways of coping with ecological drought. The strategies these animals use vary depending on the species but generally include conserving water, accessing alternate water sources, and changing their behaviour. Despite the challenges posed by drought, ASAL animals are survivors, and their adaptations allow them to thrive in some of the most difficult environments on Earth.



One of the most obvious effects of ecological drought is a lack of water, which can be deadly for animals. In arid and semi-arid areas, this means that animals have to be very good at conserving water. One way they do this is by staying in the shade as much as possible during the day. This includes avoiding the sun’s heat, which can sap their energy and make them more susceptible to predators. Another way animals conserve water is by reducing their activity level. For example, they might spend less time foraging for food or travelling long distances. Some animals will even go into a state of torpor or hibernation to reduce their need for water.


Limited Freedom from hunger and Thirst for these Animals

In arid and semiarid areas, scarcity of water and feed is the limiting factor for most animals. Limited Freedom from hunger and Thirst for Animals in dry areas is a result of this scarcity. Herbivores have adapted to extract every drop of moisture from their food, while carnivores often get the majority of their water needs from the blood of their prey. Omnivores, like humans, are able to rely on both sources to some degree, but ultimately they also suffer in these regions.


One indicator of how serious the lack of water can be is that many desert animals go through long periods without drinking at all.


Water scarcity can have a number of effects on animals living in dry areas. One of the most obvious is that it can lead to a lack of drinking water, which can be fatal for some animals. In addition, water scarcity can lead to a decrease in the quality of the water that is available, making it difficult or impossible for animals to find enough food and drink. Finally, water scarcity can also increase the risk of wildfires in dry areas, which can kill many animals.


Today rearing livestock in the rangelands faces challenges from a high population growth rate and increased human settlements. Livestock ownership at the household level is declining and may result in food insecurity. Land-use systems have changed, resulting in land subdivision and increasing farming in wetter areas that traditionally used to be reserved for dry season grazing. This has therefore reduced areas normally used for communal grazing, restricting livestock to drier, less productive areas. The restriction of livestock movement to dry season grazing areas has exerted pressure on available forage, particularly on more preferred species, essentially resulting in overgrazing. The situation is made worse where forage suitable for grazers has already been reduced by unpalatable invasive plant species like Ipomea in Kajiado and neighbouring counties. When droughts occur (as they frequently do) there are severe feed shortages that lead to conflicts and losses in livestock and livestock production.

The quantity and quality of available pastures/forage have been adversely affected by prolonged and frequent dry seasons, making feed for livestock insufficient, resulting in live weight loss or slowed gain in livestock weight, especially in young stock and lactating dams (particularly cattle). These weight losses result to slow growth, and a prolonged length of time needed to fatten. This makes animals more vulnerable to diseases and may lower the conception rates of breeding herds. Severe feed shortage may result in starvation and emaciation unless livestock keepers can access alternative pastures and feed supplements.

What makes some animals more resistant to drought?


Drought is an increasingly prevalent natural disaster that can cause great harm to both humans and animals. While all animals are susceptible to the effects of drought, some are more resistant than others. The ability of an animal to resist the negative effects of drought is determined by a variety of factors, including its habitat, physiology, and behaviour.


Habitat is one of the most important factors in determining how well an animal will cope with drought. There are many other factors that contribute to an animal's resistance to drought. One of the most important is the animal's ability to conserve water. By reducing their water intake and eliminating waste products through urination and defecation, animals can reduce their need for water. Some animals also have a higher tolerance to dehydration, which allows them to survive in dry environments. Additionally, some animals have a thicker coat of fur or feathers that help keep them warm and retain body moisture.


In order to survive in areas with little water, animals must have adaptations that allow them to conserve water. Many animals living in dry environments have thick skin that helps keep moisture in their bodies. Others may have long necks or legs that allow them to reach high-up water sources.


For example, camels can store large amounts of water in their bodies to use later, allowing them to go for weeks without drinking water. Kangaroos on the other hand can get all the water they need from their food. Some animals, such as desert tortoises, have a thick coat of skin that helps keep them cool and prevents them from losing too much water through evaporation. Rattlesnakes can sense prey's body heat from a distance and ambush them at night when it is cooler and they are less likely to need to drink.


Animals that live in hot, arid environments have evolved a number of mechanisms to reduce water loss. These include behavioural adaptations, such as resting during the hottest part of the day, and physiological adaptations, such as reducing the amount of water lost through respiration and excretion.


Another important factor is an animal's body size. Larger animals tend to be more resistant to drought than smaller ones because they have a larger surface-area-to-volume ratio. This means that they lose less water per unit of mass than smaller animals do.


Some animals are more resistant to drought than others because they can tolerate lower levels of hydration.


How Do animals cope with drought in ASAL regions?

Drought is a natural disaster that plagues many areas of the world, including Africa's ASAL regions. These arid and semi-arid lands are particularly susceptible to drought because of their low rainfall and erratic weather patterns. Despite these challenges, animals in ASAL regions have developed various strategies to cope with drought. One way they do this is by increasing their water intake during wet periods so they have enough reserves to last through dry spells.


Drought is a critical problem in many African countries, including those in the ASAL (arid and semi-arid land) region. A lack of water can lead to a number of health and environmental problems, including the death of livestock. Some animals cope by migrating to other areas where there is more water.


In arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), where droughts are recurrent, the ability of animals to cope with drought is crucial for their survival. One way that animals adapt to drought is through behavioural changes, such as altering their activity patterns or increasing water consumption. Another way that animals cope with drought is through physiological changes, such as adjusting their body temperature or slowing down their metabolic rate. In addition to behavioural and physiological adaptations, animals can also adjust their reproductive strategies in response to drought. By understanding how different species of animals cope with drought in ASAL regions, we can help to ensure their survival in these challenging environments.


In pastoralist communities, the pastoral farmers in dry lands have used migration in search of water and feed as a coping strategy when faced with droughts. In addition to providing meat and milk for the smallholder farming families, livestock farming has also been a traditional means of earning income. However, livestock production in this region is constrained by poor feed resources resulting from the low productivity of pastures due to drought. Animals depend on natural pastures, primarily grasses and tree shrubs. During the dry season, there is normally a feed deficit forcing farmers to move animals to other areas to avoid the loss of their animals due to recurrent droughts. The problem is exacerbated by climate change.



Faced with the threat of drought, some communities have applied practices informed by indigenous traditional knowledge combined with scientific research, planting spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as an alternative drought-resilient feed resource for the animals. Using spineless cactus, these communities have been able to sustain cattle production throughout recurrent droughts, which could have forced them out of conditions of chronic poverty.


For some farmers in the ASAL areas with erratic and unreliable rainfall, venturing into grass production for the production of hay has been beneficial in sustaining the animals in times of drought.



In conclusion, it is evident that animals have evolved unique ways to cope with drought. It is important to remember that these methods are not always successful, and in some cases, animals may die as a result of drought. We must do our best to protect these creatures and their habitats, so they can continue to thrive even in difficult conditions.

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