AquaRAP Team Member:
Dr. Karen Ross, International Director, CI-Okavango
Program Specialty: Mammals
For more than 15 years, Botswana has been home to Karen Ross. A biologist by training, she has spent the greater part of her life as a conservationist in Africa.
"The Okavango is one of the most spectacular freshwater ecosystems in the world, yet less than one-third of it is legally protected," said Dr. Ross. "In order to create priorities for conservation in the Delta we wanted the AquaRAP team of expert scientists to conduct an expedition here. Their information will create an important baseline picture about the health of this ecosystem, as well as raise awareness."
Today Dr. Ross went out with the bird team, to conduct a transect study of the bird diversity along a segment of the Okavango River. The team traveled upstream towards the Namibian border, at the point where the river enters into northern Botswana. Some 18 kilometers (11 miles) up river, they spied a rare Osprey (Pandoin haliaetus), a migrant from Europe, that had just caught a Monitor Lizard as large as our work table for lunch. But this is just one part of the bird study.
"From a boat on the river we can’t get the full picture," said Karen. "We need more information, especially from local communities about which birds they see – or don’t see, plus any changes over time. When and where particular bird species occur in an area can indicate the presence of other critical species along the food chain, or act as indicators of ecosystem health."
"As conservationists, it’s not enough to recognize the importance of a system like the Okavango and want to take action to protect it," Karen continued. "We need to have evidence that will help convince people there’s a reason to protect it, as well as data to direct further conservation measures. Economic reasons are prime motivating factors to get people to protect a natural resource. If we learn more about the state of the Delta and can scientifically show how it is in trouble, people will be more likely to act."
— Reported by Lani Asato
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