Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Handle with Care

by Miles Roberts

Until recently, the Kalahari has been largely immune to the changes brought by technology, farming, and pastoralism. But this is changing, to the detriment of wildlife and indigenous people. Vast areas have been opened to domestic animals for grazing. These areas, once considered unfit for livestock have

Local communities are beginning to share in conservation management. (Miles Roberts/NZP)

been made more hospitable by predator control, massive “veterinary fences” that separate potentially disease-bearing wild animals from domestics, and the drilling of boreholes to siphon water from deep aquifers to bring water to previously dry lands. The human population is growing around the Kalahari’s edges, and the new trans-Kalahari highway will be a conduit for more human settlers. Mining concessions—for diamonds, gold, and minerals—are opening up to foreign enterprises, some of which seem to have little respect for the fragile Kalahari landscape.

In order for the ancient Kalahari to survive modern challenges, its biological resources must have economic value. Fortunately, a new conservation paradigm is emerging, one in which local communities share directly in the management and economic benefits of conservation and development, whether derived from ecotourism, farming, wildlife hunting, or resource extraction. Some southern African countries—South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia—are world leaders in developing these private and community-based economic conservation models, and many are generating win-win-win results for animals, people, and the environment.


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