Page 26 - Discover Botswana 23rd Edition 2023
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    Inset: The Okavango Delta is listed
as a RAMSAR wetland of strategic importance as well as being acknowledged as the 1000th World Heritage listed site. With over 500 bird species recorded, the protection of the delta for its inhabitants is urgent including for this Saddle-billed Stork.
environmental DNA samples. We have established permanent monitoring sites along transect routes to document changes over time. We also record bat calls all night, bird calls in floodplains and forests, and “sound walks” through habitats. In addition, we core into peat beds, sample minute aquatic insects, count dragonfly nymphs, take aerial photographs, and conduct underwater surveys all to record a full baseline of biodiversity.
Understanding the Delta means understanding its heartbeat
The life-giving floodwaters or “pulses” from the Angolan Highlands are key to the balance and health of this unique system – they are its heartbeat. The little-known and unprotected rivers of the Cubango, Cuchi, Cuebe, Cuatir, Longa, Cuito and Cuanavale all form a vital
partofthissystem.IntheAngolanhighlands, rural development projects are growing after decades of war, bringing significant changes and human impacts to the system, which could soon seriously disrupt this heartbeat. Through constant monitoring, we can be prepared to respond.
The importance of repeating surveys, not just in the Delta itself but in the rivers that flow into the whole system, was demonstrated in 2021 when we surveyed a stretch of the Kavango River as it forms the border between Angola and Namibia which then flows into the Delta. The change since the previous survey in 2017 was startling; large scale agricultural developments, pollution, and human activity had all increased. Alarm bells are sounding for the people who rely on this water and for the ecosystem of the Delta downstream.
Above: With a twist and a pull of the trunk, an elephant rips out aquatic plants to feed on. The soft vegetation is especially valuable for animals who are older and whose teeth have started to wear out.

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