Under the cover of night, animal activists carried water bottles and water troughs over the rough terrain of Point Reyes National Seashore in California to help hundreds of rare elk  at risk of dying of thirst.

Careful not to get spotted by park rangers, they worked to set up the two troughs, which would provide 150 gallons of water to the thirsty mother Tule elk and their babies.

The trapped Tule elk population at this park are dying of thirst due to a severe drought that has nearly dried up their water sources. The National Park Service (NPS) has refused to provide relief to these suffering animals, according to the nonprofit In Defense of Animals.

Nearly 450 Tule elk live on this 2,000-acre reserve, reported the Los Angeles Times. The elk are trapped behind an 8-foot fence that keeps them from roaming freely into grazing land leased to dairy and meat ranchers. The NPS has reportedly rejected offers from animal welfare organizations to provide emergency water.

At least six elk have allegedly died of thirst over the past few weeks, according to In Defense of Animals.

The NPS has a contingency plan for when the water sources completely dry up, according to ABC7. But the one remaining water source in the park is dangerous for the elk to access, and one female elk died attempting to get to it.

NPS is putting the interests of cattle farmers above those of the native animals the national park is supposed to protect, animal welfare groups claim.

“This effort is only necessary because the Tule elk are purposely trapped behind a fence,” said Fleur Dawes of In Defense of Animals in a press release. “NPS is actively preventing them from searching for water and foraging for food because the park’s cattle and dairy ranchers don’t want the few hundred wild elk competing with their thousands of for-profit cows—even though they are inside a national park.”

Lady Freethinker applauds the heroic and compassionate actions of these local activists. But they’re only a temporary solution, and more must be done to ensure the elk don’t die of starvation and thirst.

Contact the Superintendent of the Seashore Carey Feierabend at [email protected] and demand that water be provided to these elk to prevent future death and suffering.