Conservation in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Nested in northern Botswana the Okavango Delta is one of the wildest places in the world. After seeing it appear in many nature documentaries, I was finally able to witness the natural wonder as a photographer. Spending several months in the area with Wild Entrust, I realized the stunning nature documentaries don't show the connection with humans. And that connection including humans, wildlife and nature is the most important in conservation. Let me tell you why.

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There are many human-wildlife conflicts in protected areas throughout Botswana which need solutions. The clearest example of conflict occurs when predators kill livestock. While many communities around the Okavango Delta rely on farming and livestock herding. A proven solution to reduce these losses is to work with a Boma (meaning 'enclosure' in Swahili). The Boma does not only ensures livestock protection but it also improving grazing. Such coexistence interventions must also adress the ambitions of rural communities and the potential for economic growth. 

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Effective conservation is about people. It invariably comes down to communities closely depending on the natural environment for their livelihoods. That's what I have learned after spending a lot of time in the village of Habu, located in the western Okavango Delta. The NGO Wild Entrust has multiple community development projects to promote landscape connectivity, biodiversity and economic development. 

An important piece in Coexistence is to involve the community through a scouts programme. These community scouts are especially engaged with improving the herding management and conducting anti-poaching and data logging patrols on foot. 

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Another crucial role in nature conservation is research. Botswana Predator Conservation provides crucial information in order to protect large carnivore species and pioneering methods for addressing human wildlife conflict. Field data from radio collars, camera traps and direct observations are carefully analysed. Understanding large carnivore ecology and behavior is essential to avoid livestock from local communities getting killed.

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Children are the future. To realise any meaningful behaviour change, edcucation will affect this the most. Coaching Conservation has come up with a proven model to inspire children to care about wildlife and develop a deeper connection between themselves and their environment. Sport is an exceptional way of engaging children to understand environmental concepts and issues. For example working together like lions in soccer and defending like rhino's.

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