Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

Project LocationNgamiland District, Botswana
Project TypeWildlife and habitat conservation, Environmental education
Endangered SpeciesCheetah, leopard, lion, African wild dog, spotted hyena
Land Area Protected3000 km2
Benefiting Locally150,000
Local People Employed15
Schools Supported23 (6,000 pupils)

The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) is led by husband and wife team Tico McNutt PhD and Lesley Boggs MA. Founded in 1989, BPCT has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana and is one of the longest running large predator research projects in Africa.

The program has a dual mission. Firstly - to study the behavioural ecology and communication systems of the African wild dog, cheetah, leopard, lion, and spotted hyena, and to apply this knowledge to promote solutions for the preservation of Africa's large predators and their habitats. Secondly - to link conservation and environmental issues to decision making in the ongoing development of rural Botswana.

Predator Conservation Programme

The Government of Botswana, has entrusted BPCT with the task of leading northern Botswana’s conservation and research initiatives on all large carnivores and their associated habitats. The Okavango Delta, where most of BPCT’s research takes place, is a freshwater wetland of global importance. It is the largest Ramsar (International Convention on Wetlands) site on earth and was granted IUCN world heritage status by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

BPCT’s research projects vary from population monitoring to animal segregation patterns and territorial boundaries.  The dedicated team of researchers is leading northern Botswana’s conservation and preservation efforts of large carnivores and their associated habitats.

BPCT research on wild dogs has made it abundantly clear that the health and welfare of the entire predator population is a key indication of overall health of the ecosystem. Thanks to a grant from one of Tusk's supporters, BPCT is now able to keep track of their collared packs via aerial survelliance.

BioBoundary Project

The aim of the BioBoundary project is to use artificial territorial scent marks to limit movements by wild dogs into areas where they come into conflict with people and their livestock. To identify the chemical signals that African wild dogs use to mark their territory boundaries BPCT has established a Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry laboratory with a grant from the Paul G Allen Family Foundation. The aim of the BPCT BioBoundary Project is to deploy artificial territorial scent marks, formulated with chemicals identified in natural wild dog marks, along protected area boundaries to create “virtual” neighbouring packs that will deter dogs from crossing into areas where they are at risk. The stakes are high; population models predict that wild dogs will be extinct in the wild in 50 years unless new ways are found to protect them. The Bioboundary concept will have applications all over the world where wildlife areas share a boundary with human rural development and conflict, including; wolves in Europe and North America, tigers in India, dingoes in Australia, and lions all over Africa. The impact of successful development of a Bioboundary would have tremendous impact for both the wild predator populations and the people who live near them.

Tusk Support

Tusk has been a supporter of BPCT since 2008 providing grants to allow the team to conduct aerial surveys of the region tracking African wild dog packs and other collared predators. Grants have been used to cover the operating costs of the projects aircraft including fuel and insurance.

The most recent grant to the project was dedicated to the on-going operation of the Shorobe Livestock Insurance Initiative. This innovative initiative is designed to improve on the compensation program operated by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to address livestock losses resulting from protected large carnivores specifically for traditional cattle farmers. The aim is to provide a solution to the underlying problems that plague government compensation schemes around the world, including delayed compensation and under- market value of lost animals, and, importantly, the absence of incentives to improve husbandry to reduce predator attacks on livestock.

With the Tusk funds, BPCT was able to cover all costs of the program including vehicle operation and expenses, 20 hours of aircraft tracking for large  carnivores in the cattle post areas, 3 salaried positions with monthly rations, graduate student university tuition for 2012 (, all building materials and tools for boma construction, insurance claim pay-outs, a computer and refrigerator dedicated to the project, local soccer club sponsorship and team and daily admin expenses.

Notes from the field
The sound of an alarm call pierces the chilled air; it's winter and it's still dark but it is time to get up and get out in order to catch up with the animals we study while they are still active. Winter in the Okavango delta can be cold and the canvas tent walls provide little warmth. The shrill sound of metal twisting in metal tells me that another researcher is already up, turning our 30m high tracking mast, checking for a signal from any of our radio collared study animals.

Today the local wild dog pack is found in the area, unusual as they rarely grace us with a visit in their enormous 750km2 range. The vehicles are fuelled again, and yesterday's flat tyres are repaired. We grab a coffee, an apple, and leave camp in pursuit of the pack, truly awake now by the cold air on our cheeks from the open top Land Rover.

To conduct research on wild large carnivores in Botswana’s expansive wildlife areas, and ask detailed research questions that pertain to their survival in an attempt to address the development of predator management strategies in Botswana, we absolutely need working vehicles, fuel to run them, tracking equipment, tents and other basic infrastructure in the rustic field research camp that we all call home.

These are the very basic requirements needed for us to do our job and much of this has been made possible by the kind donations from our patrons. Thank you.
Dr Tico McNutt, Chairman BPCT
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