Region: Lake Ngami, Botswana
Over the past 20 years, Lake Ngami has been dry for much of the time, but in years of high rainfall, it fills with water, creating a lake of up to 250km2 in size. It then becomes an incredibly prolific place, with waterbirds in particular arriving in enormous numbers to breed. More than 60 waterbird species including 25 000 pairs of Red-billed Ducks, tens of thousands of Comb Ducks and sizeable populations of two species classified as Vulnerable – Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret – are just some of the birds to be seen here. As such Lake Ngami is one of the 12 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Botswana, as designated by Birdlife International, and a Ramsar site (Wetland of International Importance). However, the area has no formal protection, it is a popular hunting spot and large numbers of grazing livestock disturb ground-breeding birds.
The aim of the Lake Ngami study, run by BirdLife Botswana, therefore was to obtain data on the birds that live at the Lake during its dry period, to help develop a long-term conservation plan. Bird counts and monitoring the impacts of hunting and other disturbances were put together to write a proposal to Botswana’s Department of Wildlife to recommend a limit on hunting. These efforts by BirdLife Botswana were crowned with success when in November 2004, the Hon. Kitso Mokaila, Minister of the Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, declared the lake and its surroundings a “No-hunting area”.
Bird counts were done twice a week between April and May 2004, after which the Lake began to fill with water. The Project took note of both numbers and species – a total of 7 358 individual birds of 42 species were noted!
The project costs were shared between the Trust and Wetlands International.