The cameras have been out since May of this year, all throughout the Botswana dry season (May – October). This has several benefits, such as limited vegetation which increases wildlife detectability and leads to better imagery. There is, however, also a downside. Sadly, in early September we lost three cameras due to veld fires that burned down a large portion of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the neighbouring wildlife management areas.
Not only did these fires destroy our cameras, but they disrupted our lion collaring efforts too. Our research team, together with PhD candidate, Kaileigh Smith, and veterinarian, Erik Verreynne, had finished an arduous 17-hour day of tracking lions to return to their campsite for some well-deserved rest, only to find the veld fire dangerously close to their campsite – forcing them to break camp at 3 am. Research has shown that the Ghanzi District burns more than any other district in Botswana. Between 2006 – 2017, fires burned 25 million square kilometres (9.7 million square miles) in the Ghanzi District alone. Although largely a natural phenomenon, the veld fires that occur here are made worse by the drought conditions, which are worsening with climate change. The impacts that these more severe and frequent fires are having on wildlife are not well understood. To help us investigate the impacts of these veld fires, Tarleton State University student, Sebastian Rogers, has come on board under the watchful supervision of CCB’s own, Otshabile Bahetoleng and Chris Mbisana, to study this. We can’t wait to see what he uncovers!