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Chobe Forest Reserves Surveys Completed

Written By: admin on March 12, 2012 No Comment

Northern Botswana, has six forest reserves, the Kasane, Kasane Extension, Chobe, Kazuma, Maikaelelo, and Sibuyu forest reserves (FR) all within the Chobe District, occupying a total area of 455 400 ha (1 % of the country’s land area). These forest reserves, bordering tribal lands, provide important ecological links with the country’s best-known protected area, Chobe National Park. A complex mosaic of forests, national parks, agricultural fields, grazing lands and human settlements interspersed with diverse natural communities poses significant challenges for conservation in the Chobe district. Within this mosaic, the FRs are important habitats for threatened and endangered wildlife species such as eland, roan, and sable. Currently there is limited knowledge on the seasonal distribution and abundance of wildlife populations specific to these forests. However, this information is critical, especially now as the management plans and land-use within and around the forest reserves are being reconsidered.

The orange morning fog filled the trees, as we took to the skies

The orange morning fog filled the trees, as the EWB team took to the skies

So, what is the current population status of wildlife in the forest reserves and adjoining habitats?  Elephants Without Borders has set out and is determined to provide new and robust data to answer this question. To do this we received support from Forest Conservation Botswana (FCB), a company mandated to manage the USA’s Tropical Forest Conservation Fund (TFCF) in Botswana, directed by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism on behalf of the Governments of Botswana and the United States of America. The main aim of the TFCF is to support communities, institutions/organizations in the conservation, maintenance and restoration of forest areas through activities consistent with the Botswana Forest Act & policy and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.

Eland report

The Forest Reserves are critical habitat for majestic Eland!

In 2010 EWB, with support from the Dept. of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) conducted an aerial survey over northern Botswana, including the Chobe FRs. (learn more about our surveys at http://www.elephantswithoutborders.org/surveys.php) However to compliment this survey, it was decided we needed to conduct both wet and dry season aerial surveys, at an even higher sampling intensity to collect a cyclical data-set to determine how important these reserves are seasonally for wildlife. Using all the data from these surveys, in combination with our wildlife telemetry studies, will add valuable information to infer wildlife population trends, and dispersal patterns within the reserves. In Sep. 2011, we flew the dry-season survey and now, March 2012, we have just completed the wet-season survey. Some of our preliminary observations conclude that the forest reserves are strongholds for Botswana’s populations of sable, eland and roan. Giraffe were noted in strong abundance.

A surprising sight was a line of 52 giraffe! (not all in photo)

A surprising sight was a line of 52 giraffe! (not all in photo)

Many of the elephant herds that frequent the Chobe river front system disperse within the forests, utilizing the rain-filled pans and abundant vegetation the reserves provide. And importantly, along the Botswana/Zimbabwe border there are specific important corridor areas, allowing herds of zebra, eland, elephants and buffalo to access needed habitat. Also observed were tracks of young, healthy Baobab trees that looked undisturbed by the abundance of elephants and large tracks of Mongongo trees. However, some of our favored sights were seeing a line of 52 giraffe on a trek, one morning three lioness were stalking a herd of buffalo and didn’t flinch from position when we flew overhead, hundreds of elephants grazing on the high grasses in Kazuma before retreating to shade in the forest and the largest herd of eland we’ve ever seen numbering 134 individuals!

The analysis is nearly complete and a report encompassing information from both surveys is being developed. After submission to FCB, the appropriate government departments, and decision-making authorities, it will be available and posted.

To learn more, visit our website at http://www.elephantswithoutborders.org/index.php

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In this photo 66 elephants, one herd amongst many, graze in Kazuma

In this photo 66 elephants, one herd amongst many, graze in Kazuma

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