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NO. 28




BirdLife Botswana’s Bird Conservation Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE Editorial Interview: David Seabe Corn Crake downlisted Lake Xau African Waterbird Census Parrots under threat Bird population monitoring Information wanted Photo of the month

Photo: M Kamakama EDITORIAL The role of birds as environmental indicators is well-known – they are charismatic and conspicuous, and many are easy to identify, making them ideal candidates for monitoring. Bird-rich areas have been found to be rich in biodiversity, so birds are a good proxy for other organisms too. Now you couple these factors with a cadre of amateur (but competent) birdwatchers, and you have a recipe for an early warning system that can contribute directly to human wellbeing. It is our aim at BirdLife Botswana to establish a network of ‘citizen scientists’ who will participate in Bird Population Monitoring and Waterbird Counts that will provide information on the threats to biodiversity posed by - among other things - land-use changes and pollution (including the use of pesticides). These citizens will not just view their participation in scientific monitoring as a hobby, but as a vital contribution to piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of biodiversity conservation. They will understand that the data they provide – no matter how sm all or seemingly isolated – will directly influence recommendations to government regarding environmental policy and actions. Their participation will ultimately improve the quality of life for everyone in Botswana by improving the health of the environment. This editorial is a ‘call to arms’ to all those who are interested in joining us in this quest for a better world – contact your nearest BirdLife Botswana branch now! Pete Hancock

Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


INTERVIEW: DAVID SEABE BirdLife Botswana has been working with the Gumakutshaa Conservation Trust in southern Sua Pan as part of the UNDP-GEF funded project “Strategic Partnerships to Improve the Operational and Financial Sustainability of Protected Areas”. Pete Hancock caught up with the Trust Chairperson, David Seabe, at the Khama Ruins near Mosu:

PH: Please could you provide some background information on the Gumakutshaa Conservation Trust for those who are not familiar with it. David Seabe: The Gumakutshaa Conservation Trust is a community-based organisation which was started by the people of Mosu Village in 2006, to conserve the natural resources in southern Sua Pan. Its formation was catalysed by Ms Margaret Kgomo who at the time was a Community Liaison Officer with DWNP and a member of the Technical Advisory Committee – she pointed out that sites such as Kokorwe (Kukonje) Island and the Khama Ruins needed protection and could also generate revenue for the community if properly managed. The village leaders and the community at large supported this idea, and since then we have never looked back. PH: How did you personally become involved in the Trust? David Seabe: I grew up with a passion for wildlife, and a fascination for the unique Makgadikgadi Wetland. I have always wondered how it came into existence, and how its assets could be harnessed to benefit the communities living around it. One of my earliest recollections is from my primary school days, when my mother and I came across some Wildlife Officers camped in the village. One of them asked Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


what I would like to be when I grew up, and I did not struggle to give him a sharp and straight answer – “a Wildlife Officer”. In 2000, I attended the Nonotsho Leadership Empowerment Workshop held at the Wildlife Camp at Ngoma, Kasane, and there I gained skills in leadership, financial management and community mobilisation. These have stood me in good stead and helped with my election by the community to be Trust Secretary. PH: What is the Vision of the Gumakutshaa Conservation Trust? David Seabe: Our vision incorporates the twin goals of conserving all the natural resources of our area, while at the same time using them in a sustainable manner to improve the livelihoods of community members. We have a diversity of resources and a diversity of people which this Vision binds together, and tourism provides the vehicle for realising this. PH: Why do you think tourists would want to visit your area? David Seabe: The tourist potential of the Makgadikgadi in general has been overlooked in favour of the world-famous Okavango Delta, but has just as much to offer the discerning tourist. The Mosu area in particular is a land of diversity with many tourist attractions. To highlight just a few: the Khama Ruins could attract international and domestic tourists, as could the grave of Khama III’s mother near Mosu; there are unique landscapes such as the lost Kokorwe Island, gorges in the escarpment which are home to the rare Brown Hyaena; there are salt mines and freshwater springs, and multi-coloured soils which the Mosu residents use to decorate their traditional huts; the vegetation is spectacular with Mokolwane Palm trees and some of the biggest Baobabs in Botswana; but most important is the community of Mosu itself, which is willing to share its culture with visitors to the area.

View from the Khama Ruins, with Sua Pan in the distance (Photo: P Hancock)

Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


PH: So far, you’ve not mentioned birds as an attraction – yet Mosu falls within the the Makgadikgadi Pans Important Bird Area! David Seabe: I was just coming to that part! Flamingos are one of the most important natural resources in Sua Pan, and they are our brand! It is well-known that Sua Pan is home to the second largest Lesser Flamingo breeding site in the world, and the community is determined to ensure that this site is strictly protected. We are the eyes and ears of conservation on the ground around Sua Pan, and no-one can disturb the breeding birds without our knwledge. We do not see the breeding site as a tourist attraction – it is too sensitive for that – but during the rains, flamingos can be found in large numbers wherever there is water in the pans. We also have healthy populations of globally threatened Lappet-faced and Whitebacked vultures, and one of the best places to see the rare Chestnut-banded Plover, so the area is a must for birders. PH: I gather that you and other community members have been assisting Dr Graham McCulloch with his flamingo research in Sua Pan, and that one of the flamingos with a satellite transmitter has been named after you – where is David the flamingo right now? David Seabe: We really appreciate the work Graham has been doing to conserve these birds, and thank him for involving us. I have been following the movements of my namesake on the BirdLife Botswana website, and the bird has moved a phenomenal distance into South Africa since the pans dried up. I predict that this bird is going to go as far as the Great Rift Valley lakes in East Africa, to visit other flamingos there! PH: Thank you for the information you have provided, and good luck with all the Trust’s projects. CORN CRAKE DOWNLISTED The Corn Crake is a vagrant to Botswana, which was previously listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In 2010, it was downlisted to the category Least Concern. Data from ongoing (albeit modest) monitoring in Russia (which holds the vast majority of the global population) indicate that the predicted declines have not taken place and that numbers have remained stable since 2002 or are even increasing. Whilst it is difficult to accurately predict future trends owing to the species's extensive range and differing climatic and agricultural conditions in different regions, it is thought

Photo: Courteousy

Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


that populations in key parts of the range in Russia and Kazakhstan are unlikely to change dramatically in the near future. The species has consequently been reclassified as Least Concern because global population declines approaching 30% (predicted in 2004) have not taken place, and there is little evidence to suggest that they will do so in the next 11 years (three generations). The reclassification has taken place on the basis of improved knowledge of the species's global extinction risk, as opposed to a genuine recovery to favourable conservation status across its range. The species remains a high conservation priority in significant parts of its range (at both national and regional levels), and continued conservation interventions, research and monitoring are essential. Evidence of a downturn in its fortunes or adequately documented projections of imminent rapid declines would warrant a further review of its status. See for further information. LAKE XAU – BOTSWANA’S NEXT IMPORTANT BIRD AREA? Botswana currently has 12 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – areas which meet international criteria and which form part of an international network of sites that are of global conservation significance for birds and other biodiversity. They were identified on the basis of the presence of globally threatened birds, range- and biome-restricted species and/or large numbers of congregatory birds. When they were described in the early nineties, nobody could have imagined that Lake Xau, the terminus of the Boteti River, would hold water again sometime in the future, and return to its former glory as a birding hotspot. Now, however, with the return of an era of high floods in the Okavango system, water has reached Lake Xau for the first time in decades. Although there are many similarities between Lake Xau and Lake Ngami, the build-up of waterbirds at Lake Xau has been very slow, in stark contrast to Lake Ngami in 2004 when it flooded and attracted spectacular numbers of birds in a short space of time.

The southern extent of the 2010 floodwaters on the lake-bed (Photo: P Hancock)

A recent count of waterbirds at the lake by Chris Brewster showed the following species and numbers: Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010




Reed Cormorant Grey Heron Great Egret Yellow-billed Egret Little Egret Black Heron Cattle Egret Squacco Heron Black-crowned Night-Heron Yellow-billed Stork African Sacred Ibis Glossy Ibis African Spoonbill Greater Flamingo Lesser Flamingo White-faced Duck Fulvous Duck Cape Teal Hottentot Teal Red-billed Teal

8 25 6 2 90 1 300 6 1 17 1 390 23 18 9 4 6 14 2 250



Cape Shoveler Southern Pochard Spur-winged Goose Common Sandpiper Wood Sandpiper Common Ringed Plover Kittlitz’s Plover Blacksmith Lapwing Marsh Sandpiper Common Greenshank Curlew Sandpiper Little Stint Ruff Pied Avocet Black-winged Stilt Black-winged Pratincole Collared Pratincole White-winged Tern Pied Kingfisher

4 2 1 1 220 3 8 20 2 13 50 110 2,400 15 190 2 3 1 3

Glossy Ibis are quick to colonise new areas (Photo: P Hancock)

The number and variety of waterbirds is steadily increasing, and there is little doubt that this area is going to qualify as an IBA sometime in the future. Apparently Great White Pelicans bred at the lake in the early 1960s, and when Smithers compiled his checklist of birds of Bechuanaland and the Caprivi Strip in 1964, large numbers of waterbirds were present. It will be well worthwhile monitoring waterbirds here over the coming months and years. Pete Hancock Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


AFRICAN WATERBIRD CENSUS This is just a reminder that January is the time for the biannual African Waterbird Census. Volunteers who have been regularly counting fixed routes are requested to repeat them any time during January, and to submit their data to the nearest BirdLife Botswana office. New participants are also welcome. PARROTS UNDER THREAT It is unfortunate that over 15% of all parrot species are endangered due to illegal capture for the wild-caught bird trade. Africa’s parrots are charismatic, colourful, and larger than life. They have found their way into the hearts and minds of private collectors, parrot enthusiasts and aviculturalists around the world. As with all things left unregulated, trade in African parrots boomed in the 1980s and 1990s. This lucrative trade was fue lled by profiteering middlemen and resulted in the Senegal Parrot becoming the most traded bird on CITES Appendix II with over 45,000 parrots being removed from the wild each year. In Namibia, cross border trade in wild-caught Ruppell’s Parrot caused their disappearance from many parts of their distributional range where they were previously abundant. According to the most conservative estimates over 3 million African parrots have been removed from the wild over the last 25-30 years. There are several African species in international trade (e.g. the African Grey Parrot) that have almost exclusively been sourced in the wild. Every year thousands of wild-caught African Grey parrots are caught in the wild, legally imported and then sold in South Africa or exported to foreign markets. We need to think very seriously about the continuation of any trade in wild-caught African parrots. Deforestation rates in Africa are TWICE that of the rest of the world, whereby the continent loses over 4 million hectares of forest cover every year. Logging, land conversion to agriculture and human settlement, wildfires, cutting for fuelwood, the booming charcoal industry, and civil unrest are the primary causes of this rampant deforestation on the continent. Cavity-nesting forest specialists like our African parrots are particularly sensitive to forest degradation (especially logging) due to their reliance on large hardwood trees for sustenance and nest cavities. Right now we need to

Meyer’s Parrot at the nest (Photo: P Hancock)

Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


support the conservation of African parrots in the wild and cut down trade in wildcaught African parrots to a minimum. Please go to this Facebook link to view a summary of the international trade statistics for African parrots (1975-2005): Link:

A closing thought... You are standing in a old-growth forest, eyes to the sky after hearing parrots calling... and then you see them, bumping into each other as the flock zigzags determinedly in the direction of their roost tree. They are screaming with delight and seem to be socialising on the wing just before sunset. While watching them you imagine how amazing it would be to fly like that, free and wild. Close your eyes and you can easily imagine it. Wind in your hair. View of the world below. Moments later, when the parrots are gone, you try and imagine how it would feel to have free flight taken away from you forever? You can't. It's a depressing idea, but one that we cannot completely comprehend beyond thoughts of being in prison. Wild-caught parrots do eventually settle into the captive environment. They can live comfortable lives and die of old age, but is this ethical? Moreover are we harming the remaining wild population irreparably? Dr. Steve Boyes Director: World Parrot Trust Africa Africa Co-ordinator: Parrot Research Group Editor’s note: Don’t get the impression that this article applies only to the wellknown African Grey Parrot; in 2008, BirdLife Botswana member Nicky Bousfield rescued 10 Grey-headed Parrots that had been abandoned (by the poacher/middleman) at the Ramokgwebana Border Gate between Botswana and Zimbabwe, when they were being smuggled into Botswana. The Grey-headed Parrot is rare in Botswana (Category A Rarity). BOTSWANA TICKBIRD – WORLDBIRDS IN BOTSWANA Support our web-based bird monitoring system. Enter your bird checklist – BIRD POPULATION MONITORING In November, 2010, volunteers throughout Botswana counted birds to contribute towards a Bird Population Monitoring Programme (BPM) run by BirdLife Botswana in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP). The BPM programme is part of the global effort to monitor birds around the world. The objectives of the project are: 1.

To develop a Wild Bird Index for Botswana showing bird population trends over time and to use these trends to set conservation priorities, report on biodiversity changes/state of the environment in Botswana, Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


and to contribute to African/global efforts such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Department of Environmental Affairs Environment Information System (DEA EIS) etc. 2.

To show that changes in the overall condition of ecosystems can be used by decision-makers to influence politicians to find suitable biodiversity management solutions.


To increase levels of community participation through building the appropriate capacity in bird identification and awareness.

The programme runs twice annually - in February and November - and offers exciting birding opportunities in both highly populated and remote areas. The method for BPM in Botswana is a point count technique and participants counted birds on a 2 kilometre route. The results from the November 2010 count were encouraging with a total of 122 transects undertaken by 152 participants. A total of 14,056 birds and 298 species were counted by participants. BirdLife Botswana was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of volunteers and the coverage of areas in Botswana. Especially noteworthy was the participation of DWNP staff.

Although it is not possible to determine any trends yet (these will only become apparent after several years), some findings may be of interest. The species with the highest number counted for all transects were Cape Turtle-Dove (1171), Redbilled Quelea (651), Scaly-feathered Finch (568), White-browed Sparrow-Weav er (524), Wattled Starling (496), Laughing Dove (470) and Barn Swallow (450). The most frequently recorded species were Cape Turtle-Dove (92/122), Laughing Dove (66/122), Cape Glossy Starling (58/122), Black-chested Prinia (54/122), Whitebrowed Sparrow-Weaver (54/122) and Fork-tailed Drongo (52/122). Interestingly there were 10 records of the Bateleur in Kgalagadi and Chobe areas, a raptor species thought to be declining. There were 17 recorded sightings of White-backed Vultures (a globally threatened species), in Kgalagadi, Chobe and Central Districts, two records of the globally threatened Lappet-faced Vulture in Kgalagadi, one White-headed Vulture record at Kasane and five Cape Vultures at Mannyelanong and Sefhare. The Common Myna was also spotted at Mahalapye, Lobatse, Mannyelanong and Molepolole from Gaborone counts. Participants enjoyed the exercise and realised that it was not as daunting as they had imagined. It took on average two hours to complete the transect by foot and one hour by vehicle. Most of the participants called it an enjoyable little exercise Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


and have indicated an interest to do more transects for the 2011 February count. Gavin and Marjorie Blair from Kasane were the most outstanding participants with five transects completed. It will be good if other participants were as enthusiastic as this couple.

These results could not have been achieved without the support of our sponsors and the wholehearted participation of all observers. BirdLife Botswana would liek to thank the Global Environment Facility - Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) for the joint partnership in project implementation. We would also like to thank all those who participated in the November 2010 count. Sincere gratitude is due to the following BirdLife Botswana Branch Managers for their continual support in organising and facilitating the successful participation of Bird Population Monitoring Programme volunteers in their areas; Kevin Grant – Ghanzi Branch, Pete Laver – Kasane Branch, Nicky Bousfield, Michael Turner and Mike Soroczynski – Francistown Branch, Kabo Ditshane – Jwaneng Branch and Melinda Laituri and Karin Tanquist – BPM local representatives for Gaborone. The success of the BPM scheme is due to all of their efforts. A huge thank you is due to Richard Bashford from RSPB for the considerable time he spent in promoting and encouraging people to participate and for introducing the new methodology for the scheme through hosting a series of workshops around Botswana in July 2010. Lastly a thank you to Danae Sheehan, Mark Eaton and Ian Fisher from RSPB for their continual support for Bird Population Monitoring programme in Botswana. Keddy Mooketsa INFORMATION WANTED 1. BLUE CRANES These birds were seen occasionally in the Makgadikgadi, to the east of the national park near Jack’s Camp, during the 1970s. As far as we know, they no longer occur there. They were also recorded in southeastern Botswana near Good Hope during the same period, but to the best of our knowledge, there have been no recent sightings. Consequently we suspect that Blue Cranes are locally extinct in Botswana (the isolated population in Etosha Pan National Park in Namibia seems to be heading the same way). If any readers have records of this species in Botswana since 2000, please could they contact Pete Hancock. Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


2. SOUTHERN GROUND-HORNBILLS During the 1990s, several family groups of Southern GroundHornbills occurred along the Thamalakane River in Maun (between the Boro/Thamalakane junction in the east and the Thamalakane/Boteti junction in the west). Some of these groups have entirely disappeared. Anyone who Photo: R Randall has seen Ground-Hornbills anywhere around Maun, please provide the information to Pete Hancock. (Pete Hancock’s address is at the end of this newsletter) PHOTO OF THE MONTH

Photo: V Horatius

This unique photo of a curious interaction between two adult Kori Bustards was taken by professional guide Victor Horatius, who writes ”On a recent trip at Savuti, one morning I came across these two Kori Bustards with their mandibles locked and they pushed each other back and forth with their chests. I watched for a good twenty minutes before leaving - I have never seen this before and was wondering if you could help me”. Fortunately, Kabelo Senyatso, the Director of BirdLife Botswana, has a special interest in the Kori Bustard (he is doing his PhD on the species) and has the following interpretation of this seldom seen behaviour “This shoving would have been between two males in a bid to establish a breeding hierarchy, and thus dominance over lekking areas. Prior to the more famous, Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


fanned-neck display/strutting around, such events would have occurred between competing males�.

CONTACT ADDRESSES BirdLife Botswana PO Box 26691 Game City Gaborone

BirdLife Botswana PO Box 1529 Maun

Tel: 3190540 6865618 Fax: 3190540 Physical address: Unit C1 Old HOORC site Kgale Siding off new tarred Disaneng road Plot 1069 KO (the old TEBA complex near St Joseph’s College) Visit our website BIRDLIFE BOTSWANA MISSION BirdLife Botswana aims to conserve birds and important bird habitats, by creating awareness, carrying out research and promoting beneficial relationships between birds and people .

This newsletter appears quarterly. If you would like to contribute an article on your field observations or bird conservation project, please send it to Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


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Rates • Ordinary - P120.00 • Corporate - Minimum P2000.00 • Professional – Rangers, guides and SSG members - P60.00 • Life - P2000.00 • Students studying in Botswana - P15.00 • Schools/Clubs - nil • SADC Region – P200.00 • Overseas (and outside SADC) – P300.00 The following details are required: I/We/Dr/Mr/Mrs/Ms:____________ _______________ wish to become members of BirdLife Botswana Address:____________________________________________________________________________ Home/Cell Phone:_______________________________ Work phone:___________________________________ Email (PRINT please):____________________________ I acknowledge that my family dependents, invitees and I take part in the BirdLife Botswana organised events entirely at our own risk. I, in my personal capacity and as representative of my spouse, children, dependents, and invitees hereby keep BirdLife Botswana, its committee, members and agents indemnified and hold them harmless against all loss, injury, or damage to person or property from any cause (including negligence) arising as a result of our participation in events organised by BirdLife Botswana. Signed_________________________ Date:__________________________ Please make your cheque payable to 'BirdLife Botswana' Please return this form with your subscription to one of the addresses given below: The Secretary (membership) BirdLife Botswana P/Bag 003 Suite 348 Mogoditshane Botswana

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or phone Pete to collect 6865618

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Birds and People # 28 - December, 2010


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