Saturday, 3 October 2009

Books for schools

As an extension of the research that I am conducting here in the Makgadikgadi I am working with a couple of schools from two of the villages surrounding the Makgadikgadi National Park, in particular Khumaga Primary School. I have visited Khumaga School on a number of occasions and I have spoken with pupils about the wildlife within the National Park, and in particular about the zebras. Nine of the pupils have also helped me to name the zebra which I collared earlier this year and these names are in an earlier blog post.

There has now been a link established between Khumaga primary school here in Botswana and Lanercost and Hayton primary schools in the UK. This link allows children from each of the schools to write letters and learn more about each others country, schooling and culture. This link continues to grow and I have recently delivered the second round of letters from children at Lanercost and Hayton to their pen-friends in Khumaga. These letters have only been recently delivered as the school has recently had their winter holiday for 5 weeks.

When I first visited Khumaga School in November last year and spoke to Mma Tshube, the deputy head, I asked her what she thought the school was short of; her reply was reading books for the school children. Earlier this year on March 5th, world book day, as well as dressing up as their favourite fictional character, the children of Lanercost and Hayton primary schools took some of their reading books into school with them. These books were being collected so that they could be sent to their new pen friends in Khumaga Primary School in Botswana and the response from all of the children and their parents was staggering.

On the 18th of September I took 6 large boxes of books of all shapes and sizes into Khumaga School. These books, along with 1 football and 1 volleyball (In a recent volleyball tournament Khumaga finished 3rd in their age group for the whole of Botswana) which had been bought with a donation from the Lanercost PTA, were delivered to Mma Tshube who was lost for words.

Mma Tshube and another teacher Mr Olephile then proceeded to look through the boxes of books before calling on some of the children to come and have a look. Mma Tshube found a book of bedtime stories and said that she was going to read them to her children, who are pupils at Khumaga, that night. Mr Olephile, the volleyball coach, didn’t really know where to start as there were so many books to look at. While some of the children were initially more attracted to the football and volleyball, the remainder began to look through the books with some enthusiasm before they hdd to go back to their lessons.

The books have now been safely placed into the small school library and are there for the children and teachers to use. I know that they are already proving to be a great resource for them all.

Before I left the UK for Botswana in mid-March I was amazed at the volume of books that had been collected while also wondering how we were going to be able to get all of the books to Botswana. This problem was solved for us by Mr Solomon Seeco of the Botswana High Commission in London. Mr Seeco generously offered his assistance, and the use of a container, in order to ship the books from the UK to Botswana. It would have taken much longer to get the books to Botswana without Mr Seeco’s help.

Once the books reached Botswana I then needed to get them from Gaborone, in the south-east, to Maun, in the north-west, where I am based and near to Khumaga. This problem was resolved for me by Desert and Delta Safaris, and in particular Adrienne Esterhuyse, who organised for the books to be transported to Maun for which I am very grateful.

Due to the sheer volume of books which were donated I decided that it would be good to pass on a few of the books to other places. Accordingly I took one box of books to Moreomaoto primary school. Moreomaoto is another local village to the Makgadikgadi and at around 100 pupils is less than half the size of Khumaga primary school. The books were gratefully received by the deputy head and some of the other teachers. We left all of the teachers busily looking through the books – I think the children will have spent the rest of the day reading books picked out for them by their teachers!! One additional box of books was returned to Desert and Delta Safaris to pass on to Love Botswana, an outreach program for local children in Maun.

If you would like to see some pictures of the books being delivered to the schools then please visit my website gallery at:

Mma Tshube has asked me to thank everyone who donated any books and to those people who have made the delivery of the books logistically possible. On behalf of all of the children at Khumaga and Moreomaoto primary schools and Love Botswana in Maun I would like to say thank you to all the children (and parents) who generously contributed their books. Thank you also to Alison and Sue, the headteachers of Lanercost and Hayton respectively, as well as all of the other teachers who have taken such an interest, and encouraged the interest of their pupils, in both the letter writing exchange and the collection of books. I would also like to thank my parents who have been so helpful in co-ordinating things in the UK as well as Solomon Seeco and Adrienne Esterhuyse.

As for the main reason why I am here in Botswana, things are still going very well with the project. I will write another blog soon to update you all in more detail. Most collared zebra’s had recently migrated west as the surface waterholes to the east of the Makgadikgadi began to dry up. However, it has just been raining again and any zebra which had migrated west has now gone east again. This is a very strange year in Botswana but the zebra should benefit by having access to the grazing areas in the east of the park for much longer than normal. I will write a more detailed update on the zebra’s and fieldwork shortly.

As ever, if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to contact me via the blog or via email on

Till next time,


Monday, 3 August 2009

The Boteti River!

The Boteti river last flowed properly in 1989 (although some people even say as far back as 1985). Since this time there have only been a number of small natural water seepages within the riverbed as well as a number of well points controlled by local cattle farmers. These water points were the only source of water within the Makgadikgadi during the dry season and were relied upon by wildlife and livestock.

The two safari camps along the river, Meno A Kwena and Leroo La Tau started to pump water for the wildlife and then 14 further artificial waterholes were established during 2007. All of these waterholes were vital for the survival of the wildlife, not least the zebra population, as they were not able to access much of the riverbed after the fence was completed in 2004.

During November 2008 the Boteti river flowed into the National park once more as it passed through the fence just above Meno A Kwena. This was the final push of the flood water that had originated as rain in the highlands of Angola and it didn’t flow much further.

Now, in July and August of 2009, we can say that the Boteti is a river once more. Since the flood water from Angola reached the pan handle of the Okavango Delta in early 2009 we have been eagerly waiting to see how far it would reach this year. This flood water was topped up by a significant quantity of rainwater within Botswana from a good wet season here. This was further augmented by the heavy unseasonal rainfall which fell in early June. The water level in Maun is still slowly rising to heights not seen in more than 20 years and this water then pushes on to flow down the Boteti river.

The river flowed into the park once again around the 20th of July and has since been progressing along the dry riverbed at between 1.5km and 4km a day and is now less than 2km from the fence which crosses the riverbed North of Khumaga.

Within the next few days the river will reach the hippo pools and the resident hippo population will have fresh river water for the first time in 20 years. No longer will they have to rely on the stagnant pools which have been their home.

The zebras will have access to a large body fresh water, their historical reason for migrating west, without the need to congregate around 3 or 4 of the artificial waterholes when the water dries up in the eastern Makgadikgadi. It’s a shame that there are not 5000 or more zebra here in the riverbed to meet the river as it flows once more.

The crocodiles which live in caves near to the artificial waterholes will have a fresh watercourse to patrol which will help them to hunt. Do they even remember what fish tastes like?

Outside of the fence the cattle farmers will no longer have to pump water everyday to meet the needs of their livestock. The residents of Khumaga village will be able to fish once more. Khumaga was originally established as a fishing village long before the river dried.

The river does cause a few logistical problems though. As I’m sure you’re all aware, electricity and water don’t go well together and so there will be problems maintaining the effectiveness of the fence.

Also it is going to make driving into the National park a challenge. It may be possible to find shallow crossing points but until the river has passed through it is impossible to know how deep the water will be. I may have to look for another site to camp on the national park side of the river.

This is a very exciting time though and it is amazing to watch the river returning as it flows over areas not covered with water for so long. There are shoals of small fish at the head of the water and there are bubbles everywhere as air pockets in the sand get filled by the incoming water. I am expecting the river to flow in front of Leroo la Tau later this week and I will post some pictures to the website gallery when I am next in Maun.

Its back to work for me as I rush to complete some fieldwork before the river cuts me off from the park.

Till next time.


Friday, 3 July 2009

Unseasonal weather


In my last blog entry I mentioned how the dry season had finally begun with all of the zebra migrating west, back to the Boteti region. I spoke to soon. There has been the most rain in June for 100 years which has understandably changed things once again.

June started well as the final GPS collar was deployed onto a zebra within 500 metres of Leroo La Tau. Everything went smoothly and the zebra was back with her harem within 20 minutes of the initial darting. We then began fieldwork in earnest by tracking collared zebra and locating preferred grazing patches to sample. We were able to conduct a number of these sampling sites prior to the rain arriving. We also tried to conduct a 12-hour focal observation on one collared zebra who decided to return to the Boteti waterholes for a drink. In doing so she had to walk through areas of dense acacia which we weren’t able to follow her through and so we had to stop the observation.

Then on June 8th the clouds started to build and I expected rain. However, I expected the usual 2-3mm which usually arrives in early June. Instead we got non-stop rain for 48 hours which prompted the government to issue flood warnings for most of the country. When the rain decided to stop there had been over 100mm in the western Makgadikgadi and over 180mm at Jack’s camp on the east of the Makgadikgadi! One of the most significant effects of this un-seasonal rainfall has been on the local farmers who had successfully harvested their crops but which then got severely damaged in the rain.

The zebra’s, however, decided that the rain was a good thing which they were going to take full advantage of. Within hours of the rain beginning all 10 collared zebra were on the move and migrating east back towards the open grasslands. In the grasslands they are able to graze in areas of plentiful high-quality grass near to pans which are full of water. This can only be a good thing for the Makgadikgadi zebra population but wasn’t really in the script of what should be happening during the dry season here in the Makgadikgadi.

I have adapted my field schedule to accommodate the zebra’s grazing in the east and this means that I am now spending 3 days at a time out in the centre of the national park away from my camp. During these 3 days I am able to collect a significant amount of data on the grazing preferences of zebra as well as conduct behavioural observations and counts.

A typical routine during a 3 day sampling trip is as follows:

Day one:

Rise at around 5:30am and download up-to-date GPS data from the collars so that we know where all of the collared zebra are. We then finish packing the car with the bed rolls, tent, tracking aerials, the fridge and food and anything else that we might need. Make a cup of coffee to drink from a thermal mug on the journey and leave camp before sunrise.

I choose which collared zebra’s I would like to collect samples from prior to leaving and so we head for the last downloaded GPS point for one collared zebra. When we near this point we begin to track the collar using a VHF receiver as the zebra will have moved, but hopefully not too far. Sometimes the zebra may be in a herd of a thousand or more zebra and so identifying the collared zebra can take sometime. After locating the zebra, we identify the area where it is grazing and then sample this area, identifying the grass species present as well as measuring the quantity of available forage. For the rest of the day we repeat this process for 2 or 3 more collared zebra before locating a campsite at sunset.

Day two:

Rise around 5:30am to track and locate a collared zebra before sunrise at 7am in order that we can spend the whole day observing one zebra. It’s currently the middle of winter here in Botswana and so it’s incredibly cold at this time in the morning and the aluminium aerials make you feel even colder.

Once a zebra has been located we then follow this zebra until 6pm, conducting a 5 minute behavioural observation every 20 minutes. During this 5 minute observation period I record the activity that the zebra is exhibiting such as grazing, vigilant, resting, walking, grooming or interacting with other zebra or other animals. If the zebra decides it wants to go somewhere then we need to follow but at a distance where we do not interfere with normal behaviour but where we can still see the zebra. If at anytime we lose the zebra and can not see her for two consecutive 5 minute observation periods then the whole days data collection has to be scrapped.

After conducting the final 5 minute observation at 6pm we head back to where we camped the previous night for a warm meal.

Day three:

Rise around 6am to break camp and locate a collared zebra. Before 9 am it is not possible to conduct grass sampling as there is too much dew on the grass and so we conduct observations on the foraging behaviour of the zebra. We then spend the remainder of the day identifying and sampling the preferred grazing sites of collared zebra as on day one.

Interspersed with the grass sampling we conduct counts of random herds of zebra to record how many adult males, adult females, yearlings and juveniles there are. This allows you to get a good picture of how ‘healthy’ the overall population is. Put simply - if there are lots of yearlings in the population then the number of young zebra surviving to become adult zebra is good and the population is in good health and may be growing.

Around an hour before sunset we set off on the two hour drive back to our main camp here at Leroo La Tau ready for a warm shower.

We then spend two days in camp sorting and entering the data that we have collected before heading back into the park again for another 3 days.

I hope this helps you to understand what we get up to on a daily basis. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to get in touch either via the blog or by email.

Till next time.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Zebra's return


Over here in Botswana the dry season has officially begun because zebra are now resident in their dry season range! This means that my fieldwork can start in earnest and we can start to see how things have been affected by the fence. 6 of the 9 collared zebra have now returned to the Boteti region with the remaining 3 still grazing in the east. However, there can't be that much water left out there and I expect these 3 to migrate shortly.

Since I last posted a message to this blog we have spent the majority of our time in camp conducting fieldwork. We successfully conducted the water sampling of all 17 artificial waterholes and all water samples have been delivered to the HOORC in Maun for detailed chemical analysis. We managed to visit all of the waterholes within 2 days, in the process driving the length of the western fence line. Unfortunately 4 waterholes were not pumping at the time of sampling but hopefully these will be fixed shortly. As would be expected, the waterholes in the riverbed provide nicer water than the boreholes located away from the riverbed. However, the variation in water quality between the waterholes did surprise me slightly and it will be interesting to see how the more detailed tests of each water sample vary.

Some of these waterholes are used mainly by the bull elephants which reside in the Makgadikgadi. This means that when you go to sample these waterholes you are likely to come across elephants at some of them. At the first waterhole we had to approach slowly in order to persuade the 4 elephants that were there to move away far enough for us to collect our samples. When we arrived at a later waterhole in the riverbed there were no animals there and so we collected the water and began to conduct the in-situ tests which were required. While waiting for the results of these tests, three elephants suddenly appeared on the ridge above the waterhole ready to come down to drink. However, I think they were so surprised to see a car relatively close to the waterhole that they stopped suddenly, considered their options, made a lot of noise, turned around and ran off in the opposite direction. We were glad that the elephants decided it was them that should move along and not us. Shortly afterwards we found them drinking at the next waterhole a little further along the riverbed where we waited until they had finished drinking before sampling.

Since the return of the zebra migration in mid May we have spent the time tracking collared zebra, conducting some initial behavioural observations and recording the body condition of adult zebra. From 1st June we will begin the first full month of dry season fieldwork by locating and sampling the preferred grazing resources of collared zebra. We will also continue with the observations and will also conduct the first 12 hour, sunrise to sunset, focal observations on different collared zebra.

I also mentioned in my last blog post that I was hoping to have the names for the remaining collared zebra from school children at Khumaga. When I collected the latest letters written by children at Khumaga to their pen friends at Lanercost and Hayton schools, I also collected a selection of names for zebra as chosen bu the standard 7 children. I have now been through this selection, along with the staff at Leroo La Tau who explained the meaning of each name, and have chosen names for each of the collared zebra. These names are: Mmamotse, Boseja,Bojang, Banyana, Kgarebe e ntle, Dintlenyane, Bontle and Amantle. Unfortunately the names Shirley and Beauty didn't quite make the cut!

If you have any questions or comments you would like to make on anything to do with the project then please feel free to get in touch either via the blog or email.

Till next time.


Monday, 11 May 2009

Rain in May!

Hello to you all from Botswana,

In the UK the weather has a nasty habit of being entirely unpredictable with the sun shining one moment and raining the next. I thought that wouldn’t be the case here in Botswana but I was apparently very wrong. In the last week the weather can’t seem to make its mind up what it wants to do and this has provided some unseasonal rain storms. These rain storms have meant that zebra’s in the Makgadikgadi are able to stay in the open grasslands of the eastern Makgadikgadi for longer than usual. This doesn’t really help my research but it is great news for the wildlife out here.

I should first update you all with the progress of the project and the work that I have been doing in the last few weeks since 9 zebra were collared. I am now back in my camp at Leroo La Tau meaning that I can escape the chaos of Maun and I am able to spend time in the field when necessary. I would like to thank everyone at Leroo La Tau and Desert and Delta Safari’s for their support and generosity in allowing me to be based here. I have been back in camp since the middle of April and I will be spending the majority of my time until the end of November here.

During April I was able to conduct the 10 vegetation transects that need to be done during every three month season with the help of Tania for a few days and then Steven who will be assisting me for the next few months. These vegetation transects are 15km long, situated along the length of the Boteti riverbed and are perpendicular to the Boteti riverbed. By conducting these transects it is possible to assess the abundance of different grass species in different habitats across the whole of the zebra’s dry season home range. This means that it is necessary to drive through some of the worst vegetation that the Boteti has to offer in order to complete the transects which inevitably leads to the odd puncture and the reshaping of the Landrover’s bodywork. I’m just glad I only need to do them once a season!

From the beginning of April zebra’s started to be seen along the Boteti for the first time in 2009. Throughout April the zebra numbers gradually began to build which enabled the first behavioural and observation data to be collected on zebra’s within the riverbed. However the 9 zebra which I had collared remained grazing in the east for the whole of April but I was beginning to anticipate their return to the Boteti. Indeed on April 30th one of the collared zebra began to migrate west and made it to the Boteti river 36 hours later having walked nearly 50km. She stayed in and around the riverbed for the next 24 hours, and then it rained. With this unusual rain storm arriving she decided that instead of remaining in the Boteti she would return to the open grasslands in the east where there is better grazing available and where she still remains.

A second collared zebra had also made the decision that the quality and quantity of water available in the east had decreased sufficiently in order to trigger the migration. However she didn’t quite make it to the Boteti before it rained. Having travelled about two-thirds of the distance she decided to turn around 180 degrees and head east towards where the rains had fallen. There are currently very few zebra here in Boteti as there continues to be intermittent showers which are often very localised.

For the next few days we are going to focus on the collection of water samples from the 17 artificial waterholes that are located along the length of the Boteti riverbed that is within the fence. We will take some measurements in-situ while also collecting samples for more detailed analysis at the HOORC in Maun. These water samples will be collected every three months for the next year which will create a detailed picture of water quality and availability for wildlife within the western Makgadikgadi.

The next time I complete this Blog I hope to be able to tell you the names that have been chosen by children from Khumaga school for the collared zebra. This will mean that it is not just Mosetsana (Mo-seet-sana) that has a name as well as a number. I am also hoping to collect the correspondence letters from the children in Khumaga to children at Lanercost and Hayton Primary Schools.

That is all for now but I will try to keep you updated a little more regularly now that I am settled here in my camp. I will also try to get some more photos uploaded to the gallery shortly.

Till next time,


Sunday, 12 April 2009

Collaring Zebra in the Makgadikgadi

Hello everyone,

On April 1st I finally became a fully paid up zebra researcher as I deployed my first collars onto zebra mares within the Makgadikgadi. Darting Zebra from the ground in the Makgadikgadi had never been done before as historically the zebras were too skittish around vehicles as they used to get shot by poachers and farmers, or chased away from waterholes so that cattle could drink instead. We thought that we would give it a go though as the cost of hiring a helicopter for the exercise was extremely prohibitive.

When we found the zebra herds the wind was blowing and we weren’t sure how close we would be able to get to them. To dart accurately you need to be around 40 metres from your target animal. 40 metres is a lot closer than you realise when you don’t have a range finder with you and to get this distance from a wild animal with strong herd behaviour is difficult.

The first shot we had missed due to the effect of the wind. The second shot somehow made it and at 47 metres was a great shot as darts aren’t really supposed to go over 40 metres. Everything went smoothly with the collar fitting and the zebra was up and back with her harem less than 40 minutes from the dart hitting.

The next zebra that we darted was the matriarch of her harem and so she fought against the effects of the tranquilizer. The matriarchs do this because when they start to show a weakness, lower ranked females in the harem will try to use the opportunity to increase their rank. The problem is that it is almost impossible to tell who the matriarchs are when you are approaching a herd of zebra, any female could be a matriarch. The tranquilizers used had the desired effect and it was possible to fit the collar and take all of the necessary measurements and samples.

I had chosen, as other researchers have, to dart only adult zebra mares. This is because the stallions will often fight with each other and during these fights they bite and hold the neck of their opponent. If we fitted a collar to a stallion there is a risk that the collar would be damaged during fighting, and, perhaps more importantly, it may provide an advantage for an opponent as they have something else to grab hold of when they bite.

When a zebra mare is darted and goes down the remainder of her harem will remain close by as they are a very close unit. They will retreat to the safety of the herd and watch from a safe distance, around 200 metres, but they are always alert and waiting for the mare to return to them. As soon as she is back on her feet and heading towards the herd, the harem will come out to greet her to make sure that all is ok before they all return to grazing.

During the following three days we were able to dart a further 7 zebra by using a great deal of patience combined with the experience gained during each previous darting. One of the hardest things is to be patient when you can see 2000 zebra but you can’t get close enough to dart. You need to have a great deal of patience to keep looking for an opportunity to get close to the herd.

On the third morning we needed to be patient once we had found a number of big zebra herds. Unfortunately all of these zebra were heading into drink at a nearby waterhole and so were already on edge. This is because predators often reside near to waterholes as they know that their prey will need to come and drink. We tried to target herds which had already drunk from the waterhole and so were walking back out to graze. It was still proving difficult as the herds were still on edge until they got far enough away from the waterhole.

We ultimately managed to get close enough to a herd to identify a zebra mare to be darted. Everything then went smoothly as the zebra went down nicely and allowed us to fit the collar and take measurements. This zebra is the only zebra which has so far been named as I am going to let the children of Khumaga Primary School name the remainder. I named her Mosetsana (pronounced: mo-seet-sana) which means ‘Little Girl’ in Setswana. This is because she was young, around 4 years old but with a 6 month old foal, and was the smallest zebra which we darted.

The collars which we are using are Satellite GPS collars which send me emails with the GPS locations of each collared zebra at specified times. These collars are all working well and are already sending me data which shows their movement patterns. I will hopefully have a link on the website set up very shortly which will allow you all to see the movement patterns of three collared zebra. When this is done I will let you know and explain what it all means.

I will also place some pictures of the darting process onto the website gallery. You will see that we blindfold the zebra when we have darted them. This prevents the zebra being overly stimulated by light and movement while it is tranquilized. At all times we make every effort to have the zebra back with their harem as quickly as possible.

I hope that this gives you an insight into the collaring process and the challenges that are faced. Over the next 7 months or so I will be receiving regular updates and collecting detailed movement data for the collared zebra which will help us to understand how the fence has affected their movement patterns and resource use. If you have any questions about the collaring process or how the collars work and the information that they provide then please feel free to contact me and ask me anything.

Till next time,


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Primary schools link up


As an additional component to the main focus of my research I have organised a link between my old primary school and another local school in the UK, Lanercost and Hayton, and Khumaga primary school here in Botswana. I have spoken to children at all three schools about my research and about life in the UK and Botswana and how it is both similar and different.

When I returned to the UK in early December 2008 I brought with me around 60 letters from children at Khumaga primary school to children at Lanercost and Hayton. After my visits to Lanercost and Hayton the children were presented with these letters and asked if they would like to reply, the overwhelming response was that they would.

On Friday the 20th I took the letters from children at Lanercost and Hayton into Khumaga primary school. After handing them over to Mma Tshube and the Headmaster, Mr P, they were then given out to all of the children who had written letters previously. The children were thrilled to see that the letters they wrote in November had received a reply. They received the letters and spent the next few hours reading the letters and carrying them around and trading stories from new pen friends. When I went back to the school to take a few pictures many of the children were carrying their letters around with them, not wanting to leave them anywhere! These photos are now in the gallery of and show children between the ages of 7 and 13 with their letters.

The teachers at Khumaga are happy because it encourages the children to write letters while improving their English and learning about another area of the world. The children are happy because they now have new friends who they can write to while trading stories with the other children from Khumaga.

Children from Lanercost and Hayton have also taken the time to collect books for the children in Khumaga. Due to the generosity of these children and their parents there are now lots of books which will shortly be sent out to Botswana. I will keep you updated and will let you know when the books arrive.

If you have any comments or questions about anything included on the website or in this blog then please feel free to leave a comment on the blog or email me at

Till next time.


Monday, 23 March 2009

Back in Botswana

Dear all,

I am now back in Botswana and enjoying the sunshine (and the odd heavy rain shower). It has been fairly hectic since I got back as I try to organise everything that I need to do over the next 6 weeks. It is going to be a busy period but hopefully a very productive one as I attempt to collar 10 zebra and conduct an aerial survey on the Makgadikgadi Zebra Population.

I did get a little distracted from the task in hand by a phone call on friday from Glyn, a friend and fellow researcher, asking if I was keen to go on a trip to the CKGR to try and find the wild dog that he had recently collared with a GPS collar. This was too tempting to turn down and so we quickly organised ourselves and left town. The reason that we left in such a hurry was that someone had flown over the CKGR on friday morning and had got a good positional fix on the collared dog using VHF tracking. Glyn then wanted to find the dog on the ground and get a visual to check that all was ok and also download the GPS data stored on the collar.

At 6 am on Saturday morning we woke, tracked for the dogs and were fortunate to receive a signal for them from less than 2km away. We followed the signal and soon found the dogs walking up Deception Valley, one of the best spots for wildlife in CKGR and a uniquely stunning area. While following the dogs we saw them interacting with Gemsbok which are too big for them to hunt in daylight. There were 9 dogs in total and they suddenly started to run up the valley and we struggled to keep up. We could only see 6 dogs as the other 3 charged ahead and by the time we caught up, all of the dogs were feeding on a springbok which had obviously been brought down by the lead 3 dogs.

For the remainder of the day we tried to stay near to the dogs as we had asked a vet to come down to help us try to place a VHF collar onto another one of the dogs. The vet arrived and we were able to successfully collar a female dog which will make it possible to track the pack of dogs at all times. When we then found the pack the following morning and confirmed that all of the dogs were well and heading off hunting then it was the culmination of a successful trip.

Once back in Maun I returned to concentrating on my research and started to plan a short trip to the Makgadikgadi and back to my camp at Leroo La Tau. I went down on the 17th and arrived in an area that I barely recognised. There is so much grass around that the riverbed in front of Leroo is unrecognisable from the end of last year when all of the grass had been trampled by the Zebra herds and all that was visible was sand! A remarkable transformation which shows the power of the rain here in the Kalahari. There is also news that the rivers in Angola and Namibia which feed into the Okavango Delta are reaching record levels. This news increases the confidence that the Boteti River will flow past Leroo La Tau later this year which will cause another remarkable transformation to the area.

Till next time.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Hello and welcome to the Makgadikgadi Zebra Migration Research project blog. I will be posting regular blogs here about the research that we are conducting and our daily lives in the Makgadikgadi. I will post updates as regularly as I can, depending on where we are working and what we are doing.

I am currently in the UK fundraising and planning the fieldwork for the upcoming year before returning to Botswana in early March. I have been back since the beginning of December but the time has just flown by and I wish there were more hours in the day.

Fundraising is quite difficult at the moment with the current global economic situation but we have been able to secure some funding while submitting applications for grants. I would like to thank everyone who has supported to project in any way.

The website is nearly ready to go live and this will hopefully tell you a lot more about the project and the work that we are trying to do. If you would like to know more or you are able to support the project then please leave a message on this blog or go to the contacts page to find out how you can get in touch. I would like to thank Laura Montgomery from KCS Computer Solutions for her work in designing and building this website. I am very happy with the outcome and I hope you are too.

It is going to be a busy time when I get back to Botswana as there is a lot to do to prepare for the upcoming year. Hopefully Glyn will not have taken the research vehicle to the CKGR as threatened and it will have been serviced by Crispen and be ready to go. I am also hoping that the GPS collars will have arrived and will be awaiting collection from the DHL office in Maun. We are going to collar 10 zebra within the Makgadikgadi towards the end of March and these zebra will act as the primary study subjects for the next 18 months.

The next update to this blog will be posted upon my return to Botswana. If you have any comments to make then please leave them here and I will look forward to reading them.

All the best.