Okavango Delta

Botswana Bird Survey Project



Martin Benadie


Southern Africa is home to profuse birdlife, and in an avian-related conservation initiative, Wilderness Safaris staff members Martin Benadie, Robert Taylor and Kylie McQualter have been assisting with an important bird atlasing project in Botswana over the past few years. Most recently, their time spent in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, where the brand-new Little DumaTau Camp is being built, offered some great insights into the project.





Wilderness Safaris is excited to play its part in mapping the bird species found in our Botswana concessions. An ambitious and time consuming project that commenced in late 2018, these initial bird survey areas include the Jao Reserve, Chitabe Concession, Vumbura Concession and the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. In time, this valuable dataset will contribute towards a better understanding of the bird species and numbers occurring in our Botswana areas of operation, as well as seasonal dispersal trends. This will also support the monitoring and further conservation of IUCN Red List or Threatened Species of birds.



Pel's fishing owl






The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is the most important bird monitoring project in the African region. It holds this status because all other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent; you cannot determine the conservation status of a species unless you know its range and how this is changing. So the results of such a project may well include red-listing of certain species, as well as selection of sites and habitats critical to bird conservation.



Bird Mapping/Atlasing in Botswana



For added context, the bird atlasing protocol is a survey method designed to record the presence of as many bird species as possible within a defined area. The unit of data collection is called the pentad: five minutes of latitude by five minutes of longitude, squares (with sides of roughly 9km north-south and 7km east-west). Birding access to many parts of Botswana, such as the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti, has proved to be a challenge since the inception of SABAP2 due to the remoteness of these areas, restricted access due to the low-impact ecotourism model followed in these areas, and the low numbers of competent resident bird observers/atlasers, which SABAP relies on for data collection as citizen scientists. Sufficient pentad coverage and full-protocol cards are thus very limited, or even non-existent, for many areas of this country. To date (November 2020) only 603 pentads have been covered in Botswana out of 7 187 pentads in the country as a whole. There is thus a pressing data collection need for Botswana.





In late 2018 and into 2019, initial bird surveys were conducted in the Jao and Chitabe areas, with some incredible records. The first comprehensive summer survey for the Linyanti and Vumbura was completed in January 2020. Both these latter areas received some good rains that proved excellent for birdlife in general – both resident species as well as passage migrants. In the January 2020 survey, 293 bird species were recorded (with 2 974 individual field observations).


To gather meaningful data, atlas coverage needs to be as thorough as possible. Ideally, each pentad should have a baseline of at least four comprehensive checklists, over several years and seasons. It is thus imperative to continue to survey at all times and further atlasing during various seasons in Botswana will be undertaken.



Malekite kingfisher



Make a Difference



As one of Southern Africa’s most important biodiversity monitoring programs, The Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2, collects almost two million bird distribution records each year, providing the best real-time measure of the impact of ever-accelerating global change on regional biodiversity. Citizen scientists have carried the costs of data collection, but backbone funding is needed to maintain the information technology systems, which supports SABAP2, and BirdMap atlas projects throughout Africa, as well as other bird monitoring projects. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, their IT budget has been slashed however, and the funding allocated for 2020, 2021 and 2022 has been lost, putting the future of the entire project at risk.



Arnot's chat



If anyone is able to assist by making a donation, information can be found here: http://sabap2.birdmap.africa/funding

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.