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Illegal Ivory Trade

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View Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho & South Africa (Vic Falls - Cape Town) - 2 Mar to 12 Apr 09 & South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Johannesburg - Vic Falls) - 15 Feb to 2 Mar 09 on hilarywh's travel map.

IVORY TRADE

China’s booming economy is still fuelling the black market trade in elephant tusks and rhino horn. When the ban on the ivory trade was implemented in the 80’s, 1kg of top quality ivory sold for US$ 100 and in 2006 it sold for US$ 750. The UN continue to support the ivory ban although a one off agreement in 2007 allowed a one off sale of government stock piles in SA, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe allowing local communities to benefit from ivory sales in regions where elephant numbers were rising.

Chobe is home to 150,000 elephants! 3 times more than the park can reasonably support. The park has been granted approval to cull 50,000 over the next few years, a sad but very real reality. If the animals are not culled they will destroy so much of the park that other species (plant and animal) start to suffer. Entire herds have to be wiped out at once and each heard is carefully selected and humanely shot by the National Park rangers employed to protect them. The ivory will not be sold but instead stockpiled by the government. This raises the immotive question of whether it should be sold to the international market? If not, will elephants continue to be killed for their tusks in areas of Africa that already have a dwindling population?

The tusks of an elephant are like teeth and it would be impossible to remove them without killing the host animal. Rhino’s on the other hand are like nails and can be cut off. They grow back approximately 4cm a year and in a bid to protect the Rhino, park rangers at Motobo NP in Zim told us they made a proposal to harvest the horn. The process takes less than a few minutes to dart the animal, saw the horn and administer an antidote and it could potentially be performed 4 times in an average Rhino lifetime. The money raised would be used to protect the species, creating Rhino reserves and ultimately saving them from extinction. But again, would supply increase demand thus fuelling the illegal trade.

Tough questions and conflicting opinions. After hearing the pros and cons, mainly put forward by conservationists dedicating their lives to protecting these animals, I still find it hard to make up my own mind. Maybe instead the answer is to eradicate the Eastern buyers!

Could you kill one of these, then hack off it's tusks?

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Posted by hilarywh 04:37 Archived in Botswana Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Chobe National Park

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View Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho & South Africa (Vic Falls - Cape Town) - 2 Mar to 12 Apr 09 & South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Johannesburg - Vic Falls) - 15 Feb to 2 Mar 09 on hilarywh's travel map.

Chobe NP

Huge concentrations of wildlife roam the banks of the Chobe River. We spend another night bush camping in the NP with honey badgers mischievously searching our pots and pans for leftovers after dinner.

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But first we take a small boat along the river for a game drive with a difference. In an open area of river there must be a few hundred impala intermingled between over 100 elephants covering themselves in the dust and mud from the pools they have created along the waters edge. We leave the boat and eat our lunch just metres away from them - it doesn’t get any better than this!

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Posted by hilarywh 07:39 Archived in Botswana Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Okavango Delta

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View Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho & South Africa (Vic Falls - Cape Town) - 2 Mar to 12 Apr 09 & South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Johannesburg - Vic Falls) - 15 Feb to 2 Mar 09 on hilarywh's travel map.

Not just hype about Hippo's

Maun (pronounced Mau-Uunn) slightly north of the centre of Botswana is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and the last opportunity to pick up supplies for 3 days. The Delta is a vast wetland of lagoons, water channels and islands that spread out like the open palm of a hand across the flat desert landscape. The Okavango River rises in central Angola carrying over 18 billion cubic metres of water annually south east across Namibia’s Caprivi strip into Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Although a vast area of the region is inaccessible it’s easy to see why the Delta is the premier tourist attraction.

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Sitting very low in the water in a Mokoro (traditional dug out canoe) we were glad we had opted to take the bare minimum. The reeds beneath our bottoms were quickly saturated by the clean cool delta waters slowly trickling over the low sides. With the sun beating down, the sky a perfect cloudless blue and the lapping water the only sound, Lindsay and I sit back in the slowly sinking Mokoro and find it hard not to be seduced by the calm beauty and tranquillity of our surroundings. Despite having to pause to bail out a couple of times, our Mokoro was amazingly stable (provided we didn’t move!) and our poler expertly poled us and our camping equipment through the reeds answering our questions and pointing out birds, plants and animals while we kept a very keen eye out for marauding hippo’s.

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Our camping area was set in the dappled shade in a clearing beneath the trees on a small island. We cooked over a campfire, used fallen trees as seats and dug a hole for our bush toilet. Once we were sure there were no hungry crocs lazing on the banks or humpy crocs below the surface, we waded out into the waist deep channel for a refreshing dip or ‘bath au naturel’. Making sure to stay central in the flowing water to reduce the risk of contracting Bilharzia we were blissfully unaware of the hungry leeches lurking in the shallows …until it was too late!!!

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Further Delta days were spent tracking wildlife on foot and by Mokoro. It rained a lot and with no change of clothes we spent the evenings drying out round the campfire, contentedly nursing full stomachs and chatting about the days encounters. We did have 2 alarmingly close encounters with hippos while vulnerable and unprotected in our Mokoro’s! See Facebook video’s. We were woken one night to the sound of roaring lions very close to camp! We were deafened from sunset to sunrise by the incredibly overwhelming noise of insects, sometimes so ear piercing it actually hurt!

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We had three fantastic days in the Eastern Delta and later in my trip I was lucky enough to spend a further three days in the Okavango Panhandle, a swampier extension of the Inner Delta up towards the Namibian border. Having been a destination high on my wish list for many years, the Okavango Delta was definitely all it was cracked up to be.

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Posted by hilarywh 07:33 Archived in Botswana Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

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View Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho & South Africa (Vic Falls - Cape Town) - 2 Mar to 12 Apr 09 & South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Johannesburg - Vic Falls) - 15 Feb to 2 Mar 09 on hilarywh's travel map.

Good Khama

Our first stop was a town called Serowe, location of the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a private game reserve created by the local residents to protect the country’s declining Rhino population. 30 White and 1 Black Rhino, Botswana’s last remaining, appear to be thriving.

At the entrance to the park 24 of us piled into the small store and relieved them of their stocks of beer and cider for our fist night round the bush campfire. The 1st rings were soon pulled minutes later when our monster overland truck got stuck in the deep sand. Use of the sand mats, a lot of digging, some broken shrubbery and an 11 point turn later and we finally found ourselves in a pretty camping spot beneath the trees. Our tents were pitched within the park boundary, nothing separating us from the Rhino except a flimsy strip of canvas. It made for a heart pounding dash to the toilet block, the fear of wild animals only heightened by my impaired vision from lack of contact lenses.

4WD vehicles are required to get round the park particularly now in the rainy season and within minutes of our game drive we got a flat tyre. Despite the park being home to a number of predators, including leopard and hyena, we were asked to get out of the vehicle to change the tyre. This is now something I’m becoming familiar with and wonder how many lives I have left before being stalked, charged or eaten by the less friendly wildlife. Eventually we saw Kudu, Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, a variety of other Antelope and 4 of the White Rhino. The ground is covered by sage plants making for a highly aromatic game viewing experience.

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Posted by hilarywh 07:32 Archived in Botswana Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Botswana

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View Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho & South Africa (Vic Falls - Cape Town) - 2 Mar to 12 Apr 09 & South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Johannesburg - Vic Falls) - 15 Feb to 2 Mar 09 & Zimbabwe (Lion Breeding and Rehabilitation Project) - 19 Jan to 15 Feb 2009 on hilarywh's travel map.

An Orange Overland Truck
Landlocked and bordered by South Africa in the south, Namibia in the west and north and Zimbabwe to the east. It also borders Zambia in a tiny north eastern corner, separated by the Zambezi River and probably the world’s shortest international boundary. During my month travelling around Botswana, I ended up crossing borders with all four countries totalling 8 separate border control points (both in and out) and culminating a multitude of passport stamps.

But I first entered Botswana, Africa’s biggest success story, at Martin’s Drift on the Limpopo River in the south east corner, straight from Johannesburg in South Africa. In contrast to Zimbabwe, the country has a high standard of economic stability, education and healthcare, second only to South Africa. There are few roads in the Botswana wilderness so a lot of time and effort is required to enjoy its highlights. Travelling in Botswana isn’t cheap and the safari lodges are mostly exclusive haunts of the wealthy. So, accompanied by Lindsay (friend from home and fellow India rickshaw driver) we armed ourselves with a few hundred Pula, a tent, sunscreen and much needed raincoats, and joined forces with a group of likeminded Aussies travelling on a bright orange overland truck.

Posted by hilarywh 07:29 Archived in Botswana Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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