The Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) Chairman Neo Moroka says Botswana’s increase of land set aside for conservation from 70 000 km2 to 280 000 km2 during the first 50 years of self rule, is a cause worth celebrating. The country holds an impeccable conservation record, however, ultravires challenges in the form of climate change, desertification and water shortages that can downward spiral the country into an ecological apocalypse if left to chance, Moroka cautions.
According to Moroka, the more than quadrupling of the land reserved for conservation or protected areas coupled with the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclamation of some of the landmarks as World Cultural Heritage Sites (WCHS), promote the country’s global community profile as a tourism destination, showcasing government, private and stakeholder sector-collaboration at its best.
For instance, in 2006 UNESCO proclaimed 100 relic sites. Tsodilo Hills and the pristine Okavango Delta (as the world’s the 1000th) had received similar global status enlistment in 2001 and 2014, respectively.
“As we look over the next 50 years, huge challenges such as environmental pollution, desertification, decline in biodiversity and intermittent droughts, call for sustainable and optimal use of our natural resources to transform Botswana’s beleaguered economy and uplift livelihoods”, said the forward-looking KCS boss recently.
University of Botswana (UB) Okavango Research Institute (ORI) Rangeland and Grazing Ecosystem Ecologist Dr. Richard Fynn concedes Botswana’s conservation milestones since Independence in 1966 like Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TCA’s), Trans-boundary River Basin Organizations (TRBO’s), ORI national research centre for conservation and Botswana Wildlife Training Institute (BWTI), underscore great conservation success stories. ORI formerly known as the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Institute (HOORI) tower head, neck and shoulders above those included in celebrating Botswana’s golden Jubilee.
Focusing on the great northern conservation area Dr. Fynn says: “Botswana supports the world’s largest elephant population at around 130 000, some of the last remaining herbivore migrations in southern Africa as well as Africa’s most significant roan, eland and wild dog populations.
“What makes the northern conservation area of Botswana special is a great wilderness relatively un-fragmented and open to conservation areas in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola with functional heterogeneity of seasonal habitats. Consequently, this is a region where herbivores have the ability to forage adaptively in a manner that enables them to among others: meet their high resource demands for protein, energy and minerals for growth and reproduction; minimize loss of body stores over the dry season, especially in drought years and levels of predation.”
Wet and dry seasonal wildlife migration reservations especially for zebra and buffalo include Mababe-Linyanti, Savuti Channel floodplains, Gomoti floodplains, Moremi Makgadikgadi Pans saline grasslands and Chobe River Floodplains. Research conducted has rated the northern conservation area as Africa’s most functional conservation areas. For instance, the vast expanse of the Okavango Delta and Linyanti Swamps’ wetlands provide dependable green forage and water over the dry season. Likewise, the Mababe Depression, Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pans nutrient-rich saline soils are home to high-quality grazing during the wet season.
Moreover, extensive woodland systems provide habitat for rare sable, eland and roan herbivores.
TCAs have provided the much-needed nexus between wildlife habitats such as adaptive management of fences, wildlife management areas (WMA’s) between protected areas’. Water connectivity to the Okavango Delta and Linyanti Swamps from Angola (OKACOM) and Namibia has been of utmost priority.