Our PhD candidate Marie Gielen had her PhD study's crucial data collection come under threat from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Thankfully she was granted permission to travel to the Western Kalahari Conservation Corridor with her San trackers at the start of June. They conducted one of Marie’s many month-long surveys counting wildlife footprints (spoor) on the sand roads between Botswana’s two biggest protected areas, in the famed Western Kalahari Conservation Corridor. Apart from the freezing conditions (her water bottle actually froze overnight inside her tent - see photo below), she professed to having a wonderful time. The rough sand roads were tough on her field vehicle, which suffered from destroyed break discs, flat tyres, an overheating engine (which subsequently required her to replace the fan), and broken shocks, but in Marie’s words “fortunately no major break downs”. Including the back and forth trips to the closest villages to fill up with fuel, she covered a total distance of 3,324.5 kilometers (2,065 miles) in only four weeks. An impressive achievement, especially considering the thick sand roads they were mostly travelling on! Well done Marie! Her study aims at looking at the populations and movements of wildlife through this crucial are of connectivity, and how wildlife is affected by farms, human settlements and artificial water points.
With the extended lockdowns happening across the world, it’s so easy to not make time to notice the little things. A new season has come to Botswana and we are still managing the national COVID-19 response. With winter upon us, we are conscious of how some members of the communities we work with are disproportionally affected, and so we continue to offer assistance in different ways.
After five years of severe drought, the Ghanzi region received its first rains in April – much to the joy of framers in the region. Ghanzi Farmers Network members, in collaboration with CCB, had been working on alternative ways of sustaining livestock wellbeing through initiatives like producing their own supplement feeds for their livestock. A combined method approach to promoting strong farming communities which are able to sustain themselves as well as produce items for profit is at the core of the work CCB does.
Another event met with much celebration was the arrival of the flood waters into Maun in May. An important component of the lives of communities in the area, as well as for wildlife, the waters are a lifeline. As a region we also work in, and with the understanding that promoting coexistence in one region can easily be set off kilter by disturbances to ecosystems in other places, we are happy about this meaningful natural event. The flood waters, which travelled from Angola and through Namibia, continue to fill the Okavango Delta and are now travelling down the rivers leading out of the delta – the Boro, Thamalakane, Boteti and Nxaraga.
Although this time has been challenging for us, it is the small joys we experience that remind us to focus on the positive. CCB remains committed to supporting communities throughout this tumultuous time, and we continue to devise ways of adapting our services and projects to accommodate the changes COVID-19 has brought to us.
The Farming for Conservation (FFC) team in Ghanzi had an eventful weekend when it was realised that the goats had strayed from their kraal. The absence of the goats was noticed on Sunday, as reports Balekanye Mbinda of the FFC Team. While comfort could be taken in the knowledge that the goats have a Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) assigned to them, with the anxieties of a national lockdown and people being advised to not wander from their homes, a missing herd is nothing to be taken lightly.
The FFC search party set off on the adventure to track the absent herd which had not returned on Saturday evening as usual. While they were out, Junior – the dutiful LGD – proved his skills and value by bringing his wards back home safely. LDGs do more than manage herds, but execute the primary duty as stated by their names – to guard the wellbeing of livestock against predation. Upon their return to the Demonstration Farm they were pleasantly surprised to find that not only had the herd returned, but Junior had managed to ensure that every goat was accounted for. It is through experiences like this that our belief in the value of our LGD programme is bolstered. We celebrate Junior and every LGD diligently serving farmers and livestock in our communities.
The 3rd Botswana Biodiversity Symposium was held at the Kalahari Arms Hotel in Ghanzi over 9-11 March 2020. The three day event was organized by the National Taxonomy Committee (NTC) and was sponsored by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, and the Botswana National Museum and featured two days of presentations from those conducting research and conservation within Botswana.
The primary aim of the biennial symposium is to highlight the importance of biodiversity and to allow various stakeholders to share their recent developments and research findings related to biodiversity in Botswana. The 2020 symposium was convened under the theme “Biodiversity mainstreaming for healthy ecosystems and green economy through science and technology”. By providing a platform for national biodiversity experts to network, as well as allowing opportunities for various institutions to showcase their activities through presentations, the symposium also gives a rare chance to create more insight into how to reduce the negative impacts that human activities exert on biodiversity.
Among the 60 people in attendance over the two presentation days of the symposium, CCB was represented by a team of eight staff members – with three members giving presentations related to CCB’s work in the region. Morulaganyi Kokole, of our Farming for Conservation department, presented the results of his MSc. research on predator occupancy and the human-wildlife conflict in Jwana Game Park; while CCB’s PhD Candidate, Marie-Charlotte Gielen, gave a presentation on her preliminary PhD data on wildlife-livestock cohabitation in Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). CCB’s Research Coordinator Michelle Kral presented on the usage of a carnivore deterrents to reduce human-wildlife conflict on commercial cattle ranches in Ghanzi district.
As an important pillar to the work we do as an organization, research allows CCB to not only remain relevant in contemporary dialogue around matters of conservation and biodiversity, but to also influence future work in strategy and policy development in Botswana and regionally. Through engagements with other entities which had presentations at the symposium, such as the UNDP, University of Botswana, and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), we can continue to fortify our work toward promoting coexistence using the multiple avenues available to us including research and education.