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BirdLife Botswana’s Bird Conservation Newsletter September, 2011 No. 31

September, 2011 No. 31



IN THIS ISSUE: Special feature: Lake Ngami


Skimmers breed in peace


Prevention is better than cure


Bird population monitoring


New from BirdLife Botswana


Benchmarking trip to Namibia


Satellite tracking of Lappet-faced Vultures


Ups and downs in the Delta


Membership form


Photo of the month


Its been another busy quarter with BirdLife Botswana staff involved in a number of bird conservation initiatives throughout the country. This newsletter is part of our commitment to share our interesting work and, in the process of doing so, to make bird information relevant and available to everybody. The new face to the newsletter is thus part of the move to attract a greater readership, and to keep pace with the times. I can’t quite visualize you lying in bed reading the newsletter on your laptop, but I can see in my mind’s eye, you reading it on your computer at work, while your boss thinks you’re studiously beavering away at your job! For those people who like to have a hard copy in their hands, or who don’t have such easy access to computers and the internet, a pdf version will still always be available. Happy reading! Pete Hancock: Editor

Front cover: Pink-backed Pelican (Pete Hancock) This page: Pied Kingfisher (Miles Kamakama)

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S P E C I A L F E AT U R E : L A K E N G A M I Since filling with water in 2004, Lake Ngami has more than justified its designation as an Important Bird Area (IBA). It has met, and exceeded, the following international criteria used to define IBAs: 1. It supports significant numbers of globally threatened birds; 2. It supports populations of range or biome-restricted birds (birds with relatively small distributions such as would make them vulnerable); 3. It supports large numbers (>0,5%) of the populations of congregatory waterbirds.

“Lake Ngami, as a wetland IBA, is in a league of its own in Southern Africa”

There is another important factor in addition to the above – the lake has proved to be a major breeding ground for birds from all over Southern Africa. Despite its relatively small size, it ranks as one of the most important sites for breeding waterfowl in Southern Africa. Every year since 2004, more and more birds have congregated at the lake to nest and raise their young – breeding commences during June/July as soon as new floodwaters reach the area (winter breeding by waterbirds is unusual, but well-documented as the norm

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for the lake). Nineteen globally threatened birds occur at Lake Ngami – some of these are terrestrial species, but many are waterbirds. There are also nine range/biome restricted species, mainly terrestrial birds which have specific habitat requirements. Sixteen congregatory waterbird species occur in spectacular numbers at the lake, exceeding a minimum of 0,5% of their regional or global population. In some species, such as the Great White Pelican, Lake Ngami supports over 80% of the Southern African population.

Although not part of the international criteria defining IBAs, thousands of waterbirds breed annually at Lake Ngami. They do so from the time the new floodwaters arrive in mid-winter, and continue right through to the end of summer. Some species, such as the migratory Whiskered Tern, nest in recurring cycles, raising successive broods once the previous batch has fledged. There are over 40 waterbird species that breed here.

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Lake Ngami deserves the highest level of protection in Botswana Lake Ngami is one of the untapped tourism development sites in Botswana. It is a prime birding destination of international standards which could contribute directly towards improving local livelihoods in the communities surrounding the lake. Fundamental to this approach, is the protection of the rich avifauna, and the development of a rational management plan for the area. Birding tourism needs to be developed sensitively in order to maintain the tourist attraction while at the same time benefiting from it. At present, uncontrolled access and developments at the lake are turn-

ing it into a ‘free-for-all’, with no benefits accruing to the local communities. Some species of breeding birds have aborted their nesting efforts due to human disturbance. BirdLife Botswana is currently working with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to improve the protection status of the area, and has engaged with other stakeholders such as local communities and the Southern African Regional Environment Programme (SAREP) to ensure that the considerable potential of the area is carefully developed; above all, it is our intention to see that Lake Ngami flourishes as an internationally acclaimed IBA. Birds and People No. 31

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SKIMMERS BREED IN PEACE It has become tradition in Botswana that every Independence Day long weekend, there is a fishing competition in the Okavango, usually in the Panhandle area. Last year, the organizers, Heather Clark and Rose Smit, of the Bush Boutique in Maun, changed the venue away from the Panhandle at the request of BirdLife Botswana, since this is the peak of the African Skimmer breeding season. The African Skimmer is a globally threatened bird which nests on exposed sandbanks along the Okavango Panhandle, and which is sensitive to human disturbance at this time.

This year, there will be no fishing competition on 30th September, due to the organizers concern for the skimmers. Instead it will be held towards the end of November when the skimmers have finished breeding. BirdLife Botswana would like to publicly acknowledge this sterling effort by Heather and Rose. Since they have been involved in the fishing competitions, the activities have become better organized, and much more environmentally friendly. ‘Catch-andrelease’ is strictly practised, with any dead fish resulting in the disqualification of

the participant; ‘no wake’ zones are observed near lodges and mekoro (dug-out canoes); littering is discouraged; in short, all competitors agree to uphold the “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing in the Okavango Delta” produced by the Okavango Fisheries Management Committee. Long may this kind of environmental sensitivity continue. This is a good example of what can be achieved through co-operation instead of confrontation. The Okavango Delta is big enough to accommodate diverse interests! Le ka moso!

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Fishermen forego fishing competition in the Okavango Panhandle to allow threatened African Skimmers to breed

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PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE The African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) has recently published AEWA Conservation Guideline No. 10 — ‘Guidelines on avoidance of introduction of non-native waterbird species’.

Steps should be taken to prevent alien waterfowl from establishing themselves in the wild in Botswana

These are particularly relevant to Botswana, in view of the difficulties currently being experienced in

neighbouring South Africa with the alien Mallard. Our sister organization, BirdLife South Africa, held a workshop in July to develop a strategy to combat this problem, and in our case ‘prevention is definitely better than cure’. Potential issues arising from the introduction of nonnative species

include, among others, hybridization, spread of disease, predation and competition for habitat and food. The guidelines are available from AEWA in Bonn, Germany (E-mail They should be compulsory reading for people keeping alien waterfowl, and for all Wildlife Officers.

Do we need alien waterfowl when we have the beautiful African Pygmy-Goose? (Photo: P Hancock)

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November is time for Bird Population Monitoring—are we all ready?

As we approach the Bird Population Monitoring Programme (BPM) counting month which is November 2011, it is ideal to share with the BPM surveyors the Programme’s progress since the last count in February 2011. We all agree that it has been a long break for us and now it is time to reassemble our teams to get ready for this exciting little exercise—as it is called by many of you. We are also calling out to our local representatives from all branches (Kasane, Maun, Francistown, Jwaneng, Ghanti, and Serowe) to continue with that good and hard work of co-ordinating and supporting participants to undertake counts in their areas during the

counting time. We all know that, since the establishment of the BPM in 2010, there have been two counts undertaken, one in November 2010 and the other one in February 2011. As a result of the shortfalls encountered in the two counts, BirdLife Botswana has conducted 11 half-day BPM training workshops throughout the country from 27th June to 2nd August 2011 at various places. The aim of the training workshops was to overcome the challenge of bias of counters near the cities and towns and poor coverage in remote areas that

currently exists within the programme. The objectives of the workshops were to introduce and publicise the BPM programme, to recruit new participants and to give feedback to those who took part through sharing progress and challenges of the BPM programme. The training workshops were held at Zutshwa settlement, Ghanzi, Maun, Gumare, Shakawe, Serowe, Mokubilo Village, Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) Matswere Gate, Francistown, Tuli Safari Lodge and Mathathane Village. These workshops were

BPM Training Workshop in Ghanzi, facilitated by BirdLife Botswana member Kevin Grant (Photo: I White)

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B I R D P O P U L AT I O N M O N I TO R I N G CONTD. placed targeting the areas that were poorly or not at all represented within the country. There were a total of 270 participants trained on the BPM programme. The workshop participants were from DWNP, DEA, Community Based Organisations (CBOs), lodges, safari companies, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and teachers. The workshops were hosted in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Of note, the DWNP organised the workshops, provided free workshop venues

with facilities and most importantly facilitated the attendance of the CBOs at the workshops. This was the second series BPM training workshops since the project commenced, following the ones undertaken from 15th July to 2nd August 2010 at Ghanzi, Maun, Kasane, Francistown, Gaborone and Jwaneng where 145 people were trained. What transpired from the workshops was that the BPM training and supplementary materials should be prepared in the local language. The majority of the participants felt that local communities should be

empowered to actively take part in the BPM monitoring programme. There was a positive response about the BPM programme from the participants, as they found it very interesting and viewed it as an important initiative to take part in. Lastly we hope that out of the 270 trained people, at least 160 will respond positively and be part of the upcoming November 2011 count. We are also appealing to all surveyors to make sure that they repeat their previous transects. Remember we all want to track changes and

Workshop participants, Zutshwa (Photo: I White)

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Bird Population Monitoring counts require only small individual effort, but must be sustained over time for the project to be successful.

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The Black-chested Prinia is one of the most common and widespread birds in Botswana (Photo: I White)

Without the participation from all surveyors, this project would not be possible—thank you!

determine bird population trends over time. This can only be achieved when there are no missing data from any of the counts undertaken. Please, if any of you know friends who could potentially be part of the scheme, recruit them on our behalf. If you have any queries, please phone the BirdLife office at 3190540. With all your support, it would be nice if we could have 260 counters covering 200 transects across the country during the November 2011 count. We are the BPM leaders in Africa, after all.

Acknowledgements The success of the BPM programme training workshops was due to the implementing partners DWNP, DEA, BirdLife Botswana staff mainly Pete Hancock, Lesego Ratsie, and David Seabe and BPM local representatives. A huge thank you is due to Ian White, and Dikeme Kgaodi from DEA for the considerable time in taking part by presenting the BPM methodology to the participants. Appreciation goes to the following individuals who were dedicated to organise and facilitate the training workshops; from DWNP Edwin Mudongo, Binah Motlogelwa, Sylvester Mokara, Mendy Makwati, Dr Lucas Rutina, Charles Mpofu, Thatayaone Rabakane, Santos Sejankabo, Bothepha Mosala, from Tachila Nature Reserve Wabotlhe Letubo, from Tuli Safali Lodge Stephaneas Schoeman. Sincere gratitude goes to the BPM Programme sponsors, the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme (GEF SGP) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Lastly, acknowledgements are due to all those who have shown interest by attending the workshops and we wish them an enjoyable count during November 2011.

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N E W F R O M B I R D L I F E B O T S WA N A COMMON BIRDS OF BOTSWANA POSTER A poster depicting 50 common birds of Botswana has been produced to assist participants in the Bird Population Monitoring (BPM) Project with identifying the birds they are likely to see. This is a large format, high quality poster, printed courteousy of the project sponsors: Global Environment Facility —Small Grants Programme, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The poster complements the small pocket field guide and CD with bird calls that are already in use. If you are a committed BPM participant, you may be the lucky recipient of a copy of this useful and attractive poster! Contact Yukiko Maki-Murakami or Keddy Mooketsa on 3190540 to obtain your copy. Our grateful thanks go to our sponsors for making this possible. 2012 CALENDARS BirdLife Botswana’s calendars have been growing in popularity, and this year we are producing an A2, an A3 and an A5 calendar. The calendar theme is Birds of Chobe, so the calendars showcase the beautiful birds of this Important Bird Area. They are on sale from the Gaborone office—contact Dikabelo on 3190540. A calendar is an ideal Christmas gift - you will be remembered every month during 2012 and you’ll be helping promote bird conservation throughout the year! A PERSONAL RECORD OF BIRDS BREEDING IN BOTSWANA by Ken Oake Ken Oake is a well-known birder in northern Botswana, and his special interest is in nesting birds. In this regard, he has a unique and extraordinary talent for finding birds’ nests, and has over 25 years of records covering more than 200 species. These have been compiled into a substantial tome, together with many unique photographs depicting the nests and eggs, and published as a special edition of BirdLife Botswana’s scientific journal BABBLER. Copies of this volume will be available during the last quarter of this year. It runs to close to 300 pages, and is a tribute to Ken’s dedication and commitment to share his knowledge with others. As can be expected, it is a specialised publication, but is a ‘musthave’ for those who share a passion for breeding birds. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, contact Pete Hancock at 74654464. Birds and People No. 31

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Pel’s Fishing-Owl Photo: L Francey

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W O R L D H E R I TA G E S I T E L I S T I N G PROJECT The Site Working Committee, comprising various Government Departments, BirdLife Botswana, Botswana Tourism Board and the Okavango Research Institute, is forging steadily ahead with the project to get the Okavango Delta listed as a World Heritage Site.

“The project to get the Okavango Delta listed as a World Heritage Site is progressing well”

The team is led by the Department of National Museum and Monuments, with facilitation from Dr Karen Ross and the mentorship of Mr Roger Porter who has been involved in other similar projects in Southern Africa. To date, the work has focused on producing a comprehensive dossier outlining why the

Okavango qualifies as being of “Outstanding Universal Value”. This is part of a lengthy process which is targeted for finalisation during 2012. In the meantime, the dossier is nearing completion, and now the emphasis is on winding up the extensive consultation with all communities in the Delta, and with our neighbours in Angola and Namibia who have a shared interest in the Okavango. Ultimately it is hoped that there will be sufficient support to result in a serial listing of the whole Okavango Basin, such as is happening with the inscription of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

Botswana is already party to the ‘Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’ (the World Heritage Convention), with one site listed —Tsodilo Hills.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The following people are thanked for providing their photos to support the Okavango World Heritage Site listing: Joyce Bestelink, Ali Flatt, Lyn Francey, Pete Hancock, Mark Muller, Simon Paul, Ian White.

From the air, the beauty and scale of the Okavango can be easily appreciated (Photo: P Hancock)

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B E N C H M A R K I N G T R I P TO N A M I B I A B Y L E S E G O R AT S I E From the 11th to the 23rd of September 2011, community groups from Southern Sua Pan went on a tour to Namibia to benchmark on how Community-based Organizations there are managing natural resources in their areas. The purpose of the tour was to empower communities around the Southern part of the Makgadikgadi Wetland System for effective co-management of the area. Participants were stakeholders in the project Strategic Partnerships to Improve the Financial and Operational Sustainability of Protected Areas. The tour was organised by BirdLife Botswana which is implementing the project on behalf of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife

and Tourism. The project aims to promote partnerships in protected area management, between public, private, NGO and community stakeholders. It is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Participants on the tour included representatives from villages around the newly designated Flamingo Sanctuary in Southern Sua Pan: Mokubilo, Mmea, Mmatshumo and Mosu; the Director of Wildlife and National Parks, Mr Nelson Nagafela; representatives from the Department of Environmental Affairs; representatives from the Department of Forestry and Range Resources; District Administration

Officers in Letlhakane and one person from the Botswana Tourism Organisation. An important observation that was made during the outing was that in Namibia, tourism in the Com -munal Conservancies (Community-based Organisations) is a dynamic and fastgrowing sub-sector of the national tourism industry. This initiative was started in 2010 and the registered conservancies now offer a combination of tourism generally classified under beach, bush, desert, adventure and culture. These include activities such live game sales, sale of veld products and game meat, trophy hunting, craft sales, accommodation in community campsites

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The trip was undertaken as part of the project “Strategic Partnerships to Improve the Financial and Operational Sustainability of Protected Areas�

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B E N C H M A R K I N G T R I P TO N A M I B I A CONTD. and joint venture tourism. There is the awarding Wildlife Concessions on State Land, and the Namibian Policy allows communities which have been negatively affected by National Parks to benefit directly from the parks. Challenges such as unemployment, poverty, loss of human life, and livestock and crop damage by destructive or dangerous animals are thereby addressed. The concept also creates friendly park neighbours who support the conservation efforts of the state by creating buffer zones which strengthen the network of protected areas. The participants interacted with community groups such as the Tsiseb Conser-

vancy which is at the foot of the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, abundant in rock art with historic rivers and craters in the area. The major wildlife resources for the conservancy are the Elephant, Black Rhino, and other species. The conservancy is in a Joint Venture partnership, and has innovative enterprises such as coffee shops, internet cafÊ as well as trophy hunting. Another visit was to Uibasen Twyfelfontein conservancy which has a population of 230 people and manages an area of 286 km2 . It is a World Heritage Site with rock engravings and spectacular mountain scenery. The last part of the tour was to Etosha

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National Park where the Chief Warden made a presentation on the management practices in the park. The day was concluded with a game drive in the park where the similarities and differences between Etosha and Sua Pan were striking. Both areas are unique salt pans, and are remarkably similar in size. Lessons learned by delegates are that the conservancies significantly benefit communities by developing their area and generating employment. The conservancies have also taken a step to mainstream HIV/AIDS as it poses threats to management of natural resources. All these issues are applicable to Botswana’s CBOs.

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The Lappet-faced Vulture reputedly has the largest bill of any raptor (Photo: P Hancock)

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“It is vital to know

the home ranges and movements of Lappet-faced Vultures in order to identify where they come into contact with humans”

Satellite tracking of birds has revolutionized the way we perceive them; who would ever have dreamed that a Cape Vulture, fitted with a satellite transmitter in Namibia, would visit six Southern African countries and travel a minimum of 200,000 kilometers in two years? New technologies can open new windows on our understanding of the natural world, and it is in this light that BirdLife Botswana is looking forward to embarking on a project to fit four Lappet-faced Vultures with transmitters later this year. The project is a collaboration between the Denver Zoological Foundation, CKGR Research and BirdLife Botswana, and will be conducted under the auspices of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. The aim of the project is to determine the movements of Lappetfaced Vultures in and around the Makgadikgadi Pans Important Bird Area (their main breeding area in Botswana) and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (in which Lappetfaced Vultures are commonly seen). Birds and People No. 31

We plan to find out if the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve provide sufficient resources to allow for viable populations of Lappet-faced Vultures to remain within these protected areas year round. Or if important habitats and resources for the species occur outside of formally protected areas. We will thus be able to measure to what extent the vultures come into contact with people and are susceptible to human-induced threats. Mundy et al. (1992) in their definitive work on Vultures of Africa, record a home range of 500 km2 for this species, which would support the contention that Lappet -faced Vultures are well protected in Botswana. However there has been an alarming increase in cases of poisons being used to eliminate ‘problem’ predators in Botswana, with vultures being killed too. It is therefore essential to obtain information on the home ranges and movements of this species. Future editions of this newsletter will provide reports on the progress being made with this study.

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U P S A N D D O W N S I N T H E D E LTA Peter Steyn, in his book “Nesting birds” recognized the ‘heronries’ at Xakanaxa, Gadikwe and Gcobega in Moremi Game Reserve as the largest and most important breeding sites for Marabou and Yellowbilled storks in Southern Africa. However, regrettably, over the past few decades since Steyn’s book was published, these heronries have been dwindling steadily. This year, there are NO birds breeding at Xakanaxa, and only two pairs of Marabou Storks nesting at

Gadikwe (as of midAugust, when breeding should have been in full swing). What could be the cause of this decline? There is plenty of documented evidence pointing to the negative impact of tourist disturbance at these sites over the years, and this is probably the major cause of the birds abandoning them. However, interestingly, as birds at these two sites have been declining, so has there been a parallel increase in the heronries at JereJere and Lediba la

dinonyane. The latter is now one of the most important heronries in Southern Africa, and is zealously protected by Ker and Downey Safaris, the concessionaire leasing the area in which it is situated. JereJere also falls in a private concession, run by Desert and Delta Safaris, and it will be interesting to monitor the fate of these heronries over the years to see whether the birds endorse the tourism operations of these two safari companies.

Marabou Storks on their nest at Gadikwe (Photo: P Hancock)

“The heronries at Xakanaxa and Gadikwe have been declining while those at JereJere and Lediba la dinonyane have been increasing”

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Membership Form Membership is due in January of each year, as the subscription runs from January to December. Rates • Standard - P120.00 • Corporate - P2000 • Professional – Rangers, Guides and SSG members - P60.00 • Life - P2000 • • • •

Students studying in Botswana – P15 Schools/Clubs – P50 plus P5 per club member with a minimum of 10 members per club SADC Region – P350 Overseas (and outside SADC) – P450

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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.



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A good photographer always has his/her camera at hand, day or night! This cute photo of 12 Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters huddled together for warmth on a cold winter night, was sent in by Onalethata Zane Basimane “I noticed these bee-eaters while escorting guests to their rooms after dinner and raced back to get my camera”. CONTACT ADDRESSES

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Tel: 3190540 6865618 Fax: 3190540 Physical address: Unit C1 Old HOORC site Kgale Siding off 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.

Birds and People  

BirdLife Botswana's Bird Conservation Newsletter

Birds and People  

BirdLife Botswana's Bird Conservation Newsletter