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Africa Geographic
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Rivers, Boundaries and the Border Boys

The March issue of Africa Geographic features a well-written article by Stephen Cunliffe describing the situation that exists between communities and conservation in that part of Namibia known as the Caprivi Strip. I found the article especially interesting as one of the parks featured in the article, Mamili National Park, lies directly north of the Linyanti concession area in northern Botswana. Mamili and Namibia are separated from the Linyanti and Botswana only by the Linyanti River itself. There are no fences, only water and marshland, and animals like elephants and lions are able to cross the river.

Landscape
Lion

Mamili is a small park, hemmed in between the Linyanti River and community cattle farming areas to its north. The buffalo and lechwe antelope that live there attract lions living in Botswana. The trouble comes about for these lions after they cross the river, and then walk right through the park and into the cattle country beyond. They run a high risk of being killed by the farmers who are acting to protect their livestock. This predator/human conflict is described in the article.

Lion

The results of this conflict impact not only on carnivores living in Mamili but also on those that live in Botswana. An example of this of this is provided by the story of the Border Boys. The Border Boys are somewhat of a legend to those of us working here. They were a powerful coalition of 6 maturing male lions that came out of the Selinda area, and moved into Mamili in late 2005. The typical size of a male lion coalition is two. A coalition of six is formidable. By May 2006, the Border Boys, as they had come to be known, (after their practice of frequently moving between the two countries) had claimed themselves a territory which included parts of Mamili and the Linyanti. Sadly though, within the course of just one year, the coalition of six was reduced to half. Three just disappeared. Of the remaining animals, one turned up with a wound on his neck from a snare. Somehow he had managed to rid himself of the wire, but was left with permanent injury to the skin and tissue around his neck. We flew a veterinarian into the area to make sure the wound was clean. Sometime in 2008, all three males crossed the river into Mamili and, this time, only two returned. The remaining Border Boys are now occupying territory further east.
Researchers in Mamili are working to reduce the conflict events, and to change attitudes towards carnivores.

Lion

In the meantime, the water levels in the Linyanti River have continued to rise. This is making it increasingly harder for carnivores to cross to the north and, in the end, this may turn out to be a good thing for lions like the Border Boys.

Visit my website for more: www.grantatkinson.com

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I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page