Working for birds in Africa

Geography

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 14:03 -- abc_admin
Botswana_Central_Kalahari

Botswana Central Kalahari

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode

Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa bordering Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. It has a land area of 581,730 km2 with maximum dimensions of about 1,100 km from north to south and 1,000 km from east to west, and it also has areas of water within its borders totalling 15,000 km2. The Tropic of Capricorn runs through the southern third of the country. The human population of about 1.7 million is located mainly in the south-east, east and north of the country. The official language is English and Setswana is spoken.

The climate is semi-arid with warm winters and hot summers. The terrain is predominantly flat to gently rolling tableland and a large part of the land area is the Kalahari Desert in the south-west. The lowest point above sea level is at the junction of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers at 513 m and the highest point is in the Tsodilo Hills at 1,489 m. Natural hazards include periodic droughts and seasonal August winds blow from the west, carrying sand and dust across the country.

Much of Botswana comprises a shallow rock basin filled with Kalahari sand lying at 900-1,150 m above sea level. Sands cover almost 80% of the country. Ranges of sandstone, granite and dolerite hills occur in the east and south-east, reaching to over 1,300 m above sea level. Some of the hills have sheer cliff faces, important for Black Storks Ciconia nigra, Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres, and raptors.

The Okavango River and the Chobe / Linyanti River occur in northern Botswana and are the only two perennial rivers in the country. The Okavango River discharges into a huge inland delta whilst the Chobe flows into the Zambezi east of Kasane. The Limpopo along the eastern border sometimes dries up in drought years. Many other streams and rivers flow only after heavy rain. There are no perennial natural lakes other than lagoons in the Okavango system, but there are numerous ephemeral pans and seasonally inundated wetlands throughout the country. Lake Ngami fills sporadically, 2004 being the first year that is has been full since 1989. There are huge alkaline pans in the Makgadikgadi system. Many large artificial wetlands are now scattered through Botswana, especially in the east and south-east. Reservoirs, small stock dams and sewage lagoons have become important for wetland birds.

More details can be found at CIA Factbook and TYLER, S.J. & BISHOP, D.R. (2001).

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