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Monday, June 1, 2020

Botswana - Corona to saving black rhinos !

Despite their name, black rhinos aren’t actually black — they’re grey. A group of rhinos is called a ‘crash’. The African Black Rhino remains Critically Endangered, despite various attempts.  In the recent decade, the   Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) population across Africa has grown at a modest annual rate. Black rhinos have a ‘prehensile’, meaning hooked, lip for pulling leaves off branches. They are herbivores and eat leafy plants, branches, shoots, bushes and fruit. They eat up to 220 different plants! An adult black rhino weighs between 800 and 1,400 kilograms.  And as rhinos run on their toes, that’s a lot of weight to carry! Rhinos can reach speeds of up to 55kph. Black rhino can be very aggressive and will charge at anything that scares them. The biggest danger to rhinos is poaching, or being killed for their horn.

Corona is leaving its impact everywhere – since the African Nations too announced lockdown in Mar 2020 in trying to contain the spread of the dreaded virus, there have been reports of rhino poaching incidents.   The black rhinoceros is a species of rhinoceros, native to eastern and southern Africa including Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa.  Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966.  Since then, they maintain a tradition of stable representative republic, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998.  Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa,  Namibia,  Zimbabwe & Zambia.  

Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing economies. The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism.  The country's name means "land of the Tswana", referring to the dominant ethnic group in Botswana.. .. more important than anything else - Botswana has more elephants than any other country in Africa -  more than 130000 !!  .. .. .. but before one could feel happy, there has been news that hundreds of them have been killed, poached and cruelly eliminated.

Botswana will begin a gradual lifting of a five-week lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus from today.  Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said that based on the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak and the current trajectory of the disease, the administration decided to open the economy albeit incrementally, while observing the disease patterns. Tsogwane made the announcement Wednesday during a meeting of lawmakers reviewing proposals from President Mokgweetsi Masisi on reopening schools and the economy.  Masisi favors a gradual process that meets guidelines from health officials on staying vigilant in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Masisi and lawmakers wore face masks during the discussions. Botswana has confirmed 28 cases of coronavirus and one death.  Battling ongoing flooding, government workers in northwestern Botswana are racing to evacuate the few remaining black rhinos in the vast, swampy Okavango Delta. The effort during recent days to find and move the rhinos—which has been complicated by floodwaters that have engulfed area roads—comes after a surge of rhino killings by poachers. Botswana officials consider the evacuation essential now because they’re increasingly concerned that poachers are emboldened by the absence of safari tourists.   Across Africa, there are an estimated 20,000 white rhinos but only about 4,500 black rhinos, which face the possibility of extinction. Both species live in the Okavango, but only the critically endangered black rhinos are being evacuated to safety. In 1992, Botswana’s last native black rhino fell to poachers, and since the early 2000s, a small number of the imperiled animals have been reintroduced into the area from South Africa.

Wildlife officials therefore are trying to evacuate as many of the rare animals as possible in the coming days. Rhinos Without Borders was asked to assist in the evacuation effort and is lending equipment to the operation, including trucks and veterinary supplies. With the heavy rains and flooding, finding the rhinos—difficult in the best of times—is especially challenging. They’re being spotted from the air, and then trucks are sent in to take them out wherever roads are passable, the Jouberts say. “When the area gets a lot of rain, the roads do get very muddy, and that’s part of the romance of the place,” says  a conservationist who has carried out bird surveys of the wetland area as the regional director for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project. Poaching incidents in Botswana, of both elephants and rhinos, have been increasing during the past couple of years. The lucrative rhino horn trade in the region is controlled by international criminal syndicates, wildlife experts say.

Still, it is considered that  Botswana is one of the safest places in Africa for rhinos.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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