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BIRDS AND PEOPLE BirdLife Botswana’s Bird Conservation Newsletter September, 2012 No. 35

September, 2012 No. 35



IN THIS ISSUE: Success at last


Second National EE Conference


Raptor ID Course


A Flight of Flamingos


BirdLife’s 90/20 Anniversary


Photo Gallery


July 2012 Waterbird Counts


Financial viability of protected areas


Biodiversity monitoring workshop


African Birdlife magazine


Roberts Geographic Variation book


Front cover: Front cover: Pink-backed Pelican Weighing a Lappet-faced Vulture (Pete Hancock) (Photo: K Oake) This page: This page: Pied Kingfisher Mmoloki and the vulture (Miles Kamakama) (Photo: Pete Hancock)

The lead article in this issue describes a project to determine the movements of globally threatened raptors in Botswana. The purpose of the project is to see to what extent vultures are adequately safeguarded in Botswana’s huge protected areas. The project benefitted greatly from the partnership with the Denver Zoological Foundation and the CKGR Research team, proving once again that ‘working together works’. We particularly enjoyed the involvement of several Batswana colleagues, although strangely the photographs in this issue of two of them (Mmoloki Keiteretse — below, and Cinistar Tjitemisa — page 4) show them looking decidedly unhappy! Actually they both had a great time, and were knocked out by the awesome Lappet -faced Vulture in particular. There is no doubt that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’! Pete Hancock (Editor)

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S U C C E S S AT L A S T ! BirdLife Botswana, in partnership with Denver Zoo and CKGR Research, has embarked on a project to learn more about the movements of globally threatened raptors in Botswana. Central to this endeavour is catching some birds to fit them with satellite transmitters that will enable us to follow their every movement.

“Project supported by Rufford Small Grants, Denver Zoological Foundation and CKGR Research”

During late 2011, we experimented with a portable walk-in trap, but without success, although colleagues in Namibia and South Africa had found it to be a cost-effective method. Consequently we decided to try a cannon net, another proven method; however it looked as though it would not be feasible due to local and international

restrictions on possession of the explosives used to power it. Fortunately colleagues from Denver Zoo managed to trace, and acquire, a cannon net that uses compressed air to fire the weights that project the net over the target area. Some strategic funding from Rufford Small Grants enabled us to field a small team to try out this promising technique. During August, we set up our capture operation at Bokamoso Game Ranch on the western side of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Our objective was to catch five Vulnerable Lappet-faced Vultures and deploy the transmitters provided by Denver Zoo. After setting up the cannon net, we positioned a

small hide/blind nearby, from which the cannon net could be remotely fired — both items were well camouflaged. Lastly, a bait was set out in front of the cannon net to attract the vultures to the site — the net is only about 12m x 15m so the birds have to be close! Now it was a question of waiting until the vultures arrived! After a few frustrating days during which Lappet-faced Vultures were present, but not in the ‘firing zone’, our luck changed. Two Lappet-faced Vultures (and numerous ‘unwanted’ Whitebacked Vultures) fed on the carcase and the cannon net was fired. One Lappet-faced and several White-backed vultures flew out before the net could

The cannon net being set up — the net will be folded on the ground in front (Photo: Pete Hancock)

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Test firing the cannon net (Photo: Pete Hancock)

encompass them — the birds are incredibly quick! However, we had one of our target birds and it was duly fitted with the satellite transmitter and released. During the ensuing few days we managed to catch a further three Lappet-faced Vultures, before we finally ran out of time. It was

most interesting observing the vulture’s behaviour at the carcase — although the Lappet-faced Vultures are dominant over the smaller White-backed Vultures, they remain on the fringes while there is a frenzy of feeding White-backs. Once the action subsides, the Lappetfaced Vultures move in and commandeer the

Cinistar about to release one of the vultures (Photo: P Hancock)

carcase. They seem to specialise in the rougher parts, such as skin and gristle, which they tear up with their powerful beaks. This means that it is important to wait patiently while the White-backed Vultures have their free meal — only when the action is almost over is it possible to catch one of the target birds. Already these vultures are sending back interesting information as to their whereabouts — they range over huge areas of the central Kalahari and the Ghanzi District. One of the birds is regularly recorded in one particular location in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where we believe it has a nest. The other three birds may be unpaired subadults as they seem to be moving randomly over larger areas. In time, we will be able to determine to what extent these birds come into contact with humans.

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Already these vultures are sending back useful information as to their whereabouts.

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S E C O N D N AT I O N A L E E C O N F E R E N C E The second National Environmental Education Conference was held in Maun during July — organized by the Department of Environmental Affairs — and attended by over 200 people from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MESD), other government departments, nongovernmental organizations and the general public.

“This conference served to kick-start Environmental Education once again”

This conference aimed to identify and evaluate progress with environmental education in Botswana and review the developments, successes and constraints experienced. As such, it served to kick-start EE once again, and

was soon followed by an EE Capacitybuilding Workshop for high profile personnel in the MESD. This latter initiative was organized by the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation and aimed to drive change towards achieving Education for Sustainable Development. A key presentation at the second National EE Conference was that by Doreen McColaugh, representing BirdLife Botswana — she gave a comprehensive overview of Environmental Education in the country, thereby setting the context for the whole conference. Since EE promotes

better education and environment, other presentations focused on educational aspects or environmental issues — Pete Hancock’s presentation on “Vultures and the Loss of Biodiversity” raised poisoning as one of the important contemporary environmental issues. We would like to see this interest in, and commitment to EE driven down to the grassroots level where it is implemented in schools. The next target should be school heads — let’s motivate them to embrace EE as a relevant approach to education in the 21st Century.

R A P TO R I D C O U R S E If you can’t identify the raptor on the left, don’t worry — you can enroll on Johan van Jaarsveld’s Raptor Identification Course taking place in Maun during the evenings of 24th, 25th and 26th October. The theory will be followed by a field excursion on Saturday 27th. This course is for beginners and Mystery raptor (Photo: L Francey)

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experts alike—there will be something for everyone. It is particularly suitable for professional guides and people in the safari industry. There will be a nominal charge for the course, and prospective participants must enroll in advance. Contact Johan on mobile 75259162 or e-mail

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A FLIGHT OF FLAMINGOS Flamingos in the Delta — amazing! Reports of large flocks of Lesser Flamingos have been flooding in from people located across the Okavango Delta, Savuti, Chobe and the Zambezi wetlands over the past month. These reports are hard to believe, notwithstanding that they have been accompanied by stunning photos! And those witnessing the flocks are all posing the same questions: Where are they coming from? Why are they coming to these wetlands? Map Ives has noted that in the past 30 years he has only ever seen flamingos in the swamps once and that was a single bird, until now. Such is the rarity of this occurrence. The numbers observed recently are also unusual: I have only ever seen large numbers of Lesser Flamingos in Botswana at the Makgadikgadi or Lake Ngami. So why is it that we are now, all of a sudden, seeing flamingos in the Okavango and at other

wetlands to the northeast? With very little, if any, food for Lesser Flamingo in the delta (maybe more at Savute Marsh), they are either en route to somewhere north (maybe East Africa), which is likely, or have no better options further south and west and are exploring the northern wetlands. In the last ten years, I have conducted two flamingo migration studies, by placing satellite tracking devices on Lesser Flamingos leaving the Makgadikgadi when it dries, after a typical breeding season. On both occasions, they have flown south to small wetlands in South Africa e.g. Kamfers Dam, and small to medium seasonally flooded pans in South Africa’s northern provinces. Another popular spot for them is Walvis Bay where large numbers go to spend the nonbreeding season when they leave the Makgadikgadi, Etosha Pan or Kamfers Dam (the only breeding sites for the species in

southern Africa). What is interesting is that there have been relatively few Lesser Flamingos sighted in Walvis Bay this year according to sources there, and Mark Anderson of BirdLife South Africa has reported that increased water levels at Kamfers Dam have resulted in a change in food type and hence relatively fewer Lesser Flamingos there too. Lake Ngami has, for the past few years, been a magnet for increasing numbers of flamingos. However, the feeding conditions there are not ideal for Lesser Flamingo, which feed on microscopic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. It may be that Lake Ngami has been a big draw card until recently, since Makgadikgadi and Etosha Pan dried up earlier in the year, and that poor feeding conditions at the lake have driven them to neighbouring wetlands in search of better feeding conditions.

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Flamingos have been sighted in areas where they have previously not been recorded. Where are they coming from, and why?

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Another very interesting explanation is the possibility of them migrating down to Botswana and Namibia from East Africa. This theory has been postulated for some years now, to account for the huge numbers that have occurred at places like the

Makgadikgadi. But the link between the sub-continental populations, although highly likely, has not yet been proven. It is therefore fascinating to hear from some colleagues in East Africa that large numbers of flamingos have moved from Lake

Nakuru recently owing to high water levels at the lake. There is so much yet to be learnt about these magnificent and most mysterious 'flame birds' of the skies. Dr Graham McCulloch

B I R D L I F E ’ S 9 0 / 2 0 A N N I V E R S A RY The BirdLife Partnership in its present form is 20 years old, but it has roots that go back as far as 90 years. This year is therefore an important milestone in the history of the Partnership.

The BirdLife Partnership is currently celebrating its anniversary

The oldest BirdLife Partner is the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS— BirdLife in India founded in 1883), followed by the RSPB (UK) and NABU (Netherlands). By contrast, BirdLife Botswana is just over 10 years old (but it was the Botswana Bird Club for 20 years prior to this). The BirdLife Partnership is one the largest and one of the most remarkable civil society organisations working for nature; it has partners and affiliates in over 100 countries worldwide. These are mainly Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Societies which when working together can achieve much more than any of them alone! It would be great to hear from any long-standing BirdLife members who have historical information or photographs about the Botswana Bird Club. Please send such information to your nearest BirdLife office (see addresses at the back of the newsletter).

Red-breasted Swallows (Photo: I White)

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Photos by Ken Oake and Pete Hancock

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J U LY 2 0 1 2 WAT E R B I R D C O U N T S In northern Botswana, a strong team led by Phil Zappala and Mark Vandewalle covered the Chobe River and floodplain between the old park entrance gate and Ngoma Bridge, and over 12,000 birds were noted. Species in the highest numbers were White-faced Duck (3424), Red-billed Teal (3040), Egyptian Goose (902) and African Openbill (882). A good range of species was seen with 35 Pink-backed Pelicans, four White Storks, two Lesser Jacanas, four White- crowned Lapwings, a Caspian Tern, four African Marsh Harriers and 36 African Fish Eagles amongst the interest. Gavin and Marjorie Blair dutifully checked seven pan complexes in Chobe National Park but they were all dry, except for tiny puddles in one or two. Not surprisingly the only birds seen at the pans were Crowned and Blacksmith lapwings, except for one Saddlebilled Stork. The Blairs then counted birds on the Savuti marsh and channel but shortage of time meant that only about 25% of the wetland was covered. Even so, they noted almost 2,000 birds — eleven Slaty Egrets was a good record for Savuti; other high counts were 431 white egrets, 181 Yellow-billed Storks, 319 African Jacanas and 11 Greater Painted Snipe. Unfortunately due to lack of funds, Pete Hancock was unable to carry out his regular

counts in the Okavango and along the Maunachira River and at Lake Ngami. Sadly no other counts were received for the Okavango Delta. At the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, Chris Brewster surveyed Lake Xau near Mopipi. There he found 5,721 waterbirds including 1,500 Great White Pelicans, 1,100 Greater Flamingos and 130 Lesser Flamingos and 1,166 Black-winged Stilts. Other species of interest were 36 Chestnutbanded Plovers, three Whitefronted Plovers, 13 Greyhooded Gulls and seven Caspian Terns. Staff of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Serowe office did a fantastic job in counting dams in eastern Botswana, all of which were only from 35-50% full. Shashe Dam was the most productive followed by Letsibogo Dam but it was useful to have a count by boat of the relatively new Ntimbale Dam north of Francistown. DWNP staff also visited Zibanana Pan on the Zimbabwe border and Bonwakatlhako Dam on the Dikabeya River northeast of Palapye. They found 21 Great White Pelicans at Shashe Dam and ten Pinkbacked Pelicans and 25 African Openbills at Letsibogo, 200 Greater and 150 Lesser flamingos at Shashe Dam and breeding

White-breasted Cormorants at both Shashe and Ntimbale Dams. In southeast Botswana there was good cover of the various dams and sewage ponds by Mike & Daphne Goldsworthy, Chris Brewster and Keddy Mooketsa, although no count was made at Broadhurst (Tsholofelo) Sewage Ponds and the count at Phakalane Sewage Ponds was incomplete. Numbers generally were much lower than usual for July because of the drought and consequent very low water levels in dams. Only 5,170 birds were counted at five sewage ponds and five dams. Little Grebes (934) and Redknobbed Coot (831) were the most numerous species. Six Great Crested Grebes at Mogobane Dam, two Yellowbilled Storks at Bokaa Dam, a White Stork at Gamoleele Dam, 174 Cape Teal at Ramotswa Sewage Ponds and two Wattled Lapwings at Lobatse Sewage Ponds were among the few highlights. Further north Peter D’Arcy and his wife covered Mahalapye Sewage Ponds where 19 Maccoa Duck and 221 Little Grebes were seen. A summary of the counts appears in the table below (total no. of waterbirds with no. of species in brackets). Stephanie Tyler AfWC Co-ordinator

South-eastern Botswana

Northern Botswana Chobe River Chobe N.P. pans Savuti marsh/channel 25 % cover

12,053 (52) 47 (3) 1,992 (37)

Eastern Botswana Shashe Dam Ntimbale Dam

5,170 (48)

1,270 (37) 716 (20) 102 (15)

Bathoen Dam Bokaa Dam Gamoleele Dam Jwaneng S.P. Lobatse S.P. Mahalapye S.P. Mogobane Dam

260 (16) 738 (26) 425 (25) 313 (14) 289 (24) 396 (23) 1,469 (27)

Letsibogo Dam

421 (26)

Moshupa Dam

54 (12)

Zibanana Pan

11 (5)

Phakalane S.P. (incomplete)

352 (23)

Bonwakatlhako Dam

20 (7)

Ramotswa S.P.

874 (20)

Makgadikgadi Pans Lake Xau

5,721 (44) Birds and People No. 35

Over 12,000 waterbirds were counted along the Chobe River!

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Is the current Botswana Protected Area management system financially viable?

Recent findings from a consultant who undertook an “Assessment of the financial and operational management effectiveness of Protected Areas (PAs) in Botswana” indicates that though there is a general perception that Botswana is making a profit out of the PA system, a closer look at operations and financial management leaves much to be desired. Through the BirdLife Botswana project entitled “Strategic Partnerships to Improve the Financial and Operational Sustainability of Protected Areas” funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and conducted in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, an assessment has been done to focus on the effectiveness of current management systems with the intention of recommending improvements where

necessary. The assignment began in September 2011 and ended in September 2012. A highlight from the assessment is that over the past five years, the financing gap, that is the difference between government PA financing and PA revenue, is still high - calculated to be 29%. The financial assessment however recognises some of the challenges to be addressed, especially management reforms within the PA authority. The assessment indicates that management and financial changes in the PA operations are required. There is a need for policy to accommodate other players in PA management (directly or indirectly). This has been recommended as a way of reducing the high cost incurred by government in managing PAs alone. The assessment indicated that currently some PAs run at a loss, i.e. the government funding is more than what the PA generates; for

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instance, from 2008 to 2012, for Khutse Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the government expenditure has been significantly higher than income. On a positive note, showing potential for engaging the private sector, the assessment shows that the Willingness To Pay by the private sector suggested that at least 55% of the annual parks budget could be invested into PAs by the private sector. However it is critical to realise that apart from the DWNP expenditure there is no direct structure or mechanism to financially support PA management (such as partnerships with the private sector). The consultancy suggests that it is very possible for the government of Botswana to operate PAs strictly as a sustainable business without compromising conservation. More information is available in the report, obtainable from BirdLife Botswana. M Kootsositse

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B I O D I V E R S I T Y M O N I TO R I N G WORKSHOP On the 12th of July 2012, biodiversity monitoring teams from all protected Important Bird Areas and national biodiversity management authorities came together for a workshop. The workshop was funded by BirdLife Botswana through UNDP/GEF, and hosted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. It was a way of reporting to stakeholders on the justended project Instituting Effective Monitoring of Protected Areas (Important Bird Areas) as a Contribution to Reducing the Rate of Biodiversity Loss in Africa (2007-2011). Objectives of the meeting were to: • Train monitoring teams on IBA data collection • Give feedback to monitoring teams on results from 2008 to 2011 • Discuss challenges and solutions to IBA data collection and management • Increase awareness of using birds as indicator species in biodiversity monitoring

Participants included Department of Wildlife and National Parks, research and park authorities from Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, Birds and People No. 34

Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari and Khutse Game Reserves, Mannyelanong Game Reserve, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Other stakeholders included the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Forestry and Range Resources. During the workshop, biodiversity monitoring teams from protected areas had refresher training on accurate and timely data collection using the StatePressure-Response framework. Data collection and management were discussed, as information collected from sites is uploaded into the World Biodiversity Database for management, analysis and reporting. Stakeholders had ample time to present on their role

and actions on environmental management. Department of Forestry and Range Resources presented on the new fire management systems while the Department of Wildlife and National Parks further explained the Management Oriented Monitoring System. The Environment Information System was one of the data management systems discussed. The data manager/programme co-ordinator from the Department of Environmental Affairs clarified its importance and use in the management of the natural environment. He informed participants that the system is open for use by all and contains components such as environmental indicators, state of the

The purpose of the workshop was to improve IBA monitoring throughout the country

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B I O D I V E R S I T Y M O N I TO R I N G WORKSHOP CONTD environment reviews as well as environmental assessment.

Stakeholders from a variety of government departments attended the workshop

From the project, information gathered in the past four years shows that biodiversity is faced with challenges such as unsustainable exploitation, habitat destruction and pollution. Veldt fires have also immensely affected the ecosystems in protected areas, gradually reducing the quality and quantity of biodiversity in Botswana’s protected areas. Most affected areas from 2008 to 2011 are the Forest Reserves, Makgadikgadi Pans and Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Conservation measure taken by government and stakeholders includes

education and awareness on best practices of natural resource management, publicity and communication to students and the general public by events such as World Migratory Bird Day, World Environment Day and World Tourism Day. Important Bird Area monitoring is one of the significant conservation initiatives implemented by BirdLife Botswana and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Results are used to advise government on biodiversity matters, advocate for sustainable use of natural resources and formulate legislation and policies. From the participants’ observations, it was apparent that most of the

unprotected IBAs are under massive threats and the populations of threatened birds are declining. Monitoring teams also requested for more training on bird awareness and a standard methodology of bird monitoring. Recommendations and conclusions from the meeting was that more collaboration and synergy is the only way to addressing increasing environmental issues. The meeting was followed by a practical exercise where participants visited one of the intensely threatened IBAs, Phakalane Sewage Ponds, to assess the status of the environment. Mabifhi Lesego Ratsie IBA Project

AFRICAN BIRDLIFE MAGAZINE Keen birders were all disappointed at the recent discontinuation of the informative, high-quality magazine Africa: Birds and Birding. However, the new BirdLife South Africa publication, African Birdlife, will hopefully go a long way towards filling this void. The inaugural issue will be available

at the beginning of November this year. According to BirdLife South Africa CEO, Mark Anderson “it will include well written articles and stunning

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photographs of our continent’s birds”. It will undoubtedly be a magazine worth having so watch your nearest bookshop later this year!

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C O M M O N B I R D M O N I TO R I N G A friendly reminder to all participants in the Common Bird Monitoring project — November is just around the corner! The project is shaping up nicely with countrywide coverage steadily improving, so please prepare yourselves for the next session. It would be greatly appreciated if you could involve one extra person in your count with the aim of recruiting a new counter so that the number of participants continues to grow.


This book will take your birding to a new level!

One of the most important ornithological books to be published recently is Roberts Geographic Variation of Southern African Birds. This book takes birding to the next level: in describing the plumage variation of 613 bird races, it encourages birders to look more closely at their subjects (even common, ‘familiar’ ones) to discern subtle differences between them, and then puts them in a spatial context by showing where in southern Africa they are likely to be found. It goes further than this, however, since “Species evolve from races and subspecies” (Clancey, 1967) - the book gives us an insight into how some birds are speciating right in front of our eyes. The text is clear and thoroughly well researched, the maps are as accurate as current knowledge permits and the illustrations are meticulously executed. It is essentially a reference work, but I enjoyed reading my copy from cover to cover and savouring the illustrations. The book contained many revelations for me e.g. why does the Hadeda Ibis found around the Okavango have a pale eye and noticeable white crescent on the cheek, why do the Delta’s Spurwinged Geese have so much white on the face etc.? At last here is a guide which shows how yellow our African Green Pigeon is, and how rufous our Crested Francolin is. The mystery of our Village Indigobird with white bill has at last been revealed (subsp. okavangoensis)! With the wide range of illustrations for each species, this book is a useful companion to Roberts Bird Guide which of course shows only a ‘typical’ representative of each. Hugh Chittenden — the book’s lead author — recently was awarded an honorary Doctorate for his contribution to ornithology in southern Africa, and this book, which contains much original information, is testimony to the standard of his work. For those people who have not yet obtained a copy, the books are in most bookshops now — there are details for Jacana, the major distributor, on the Roberts website: Birds and People No. 34

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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

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 (please PRINT):_______________________________________

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.



Please make your cheque payable to 'BirdLife Botswana' or Electronic Funds Transfer to First National Bank Botswana, Kgale View 284567, Account # 57110052562, Swift FIRNBWGX Please return, fax or mail this form with your subscription and payment details: Gaborone






The Secretary (membership) BirdLife Botswana

Pete Hancock

Mike Soroczynski

Phil Zappala

Jerusalem Mooketsi

Kevin Grant

PO Box 20463

PO Box 425

PO Box 570

PO Box 1723

PO Box 820

PO Box 26691







or phone Pete to

or phone Mike to

or phone Phil

or phone Jerusalem

or phone Kevin


collect 74654464

collect 2977133


to collect 71392738


Game City

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Professional Guide James Haskins from Wildlands Safaris spotted these Greater Flamingos in Savuti recently, and managed to get a unique shot of them with a herd of elephants in the background. What a sighting!


Contact us

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 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 #35  

Quarterly newsletter highlighting BirdLife Botswana's bird conservation activities