Author of over 30 books to date, Catherine Barr explains why she chose to focus on the Okavango Delta as habitat for the latest book in her ‘Let’s Save…’ series,
The Okavango Delta in Botswana, Southern Africa is one of the world’s most spectacular wetlands. Every year, as floodwaters flow in from the faraway Angolan highlands, this unusual inland delta doubles in size. It is unusual because, unlike most deltas, its waters never reach the sea. They simply disappear into the sand. Its sparkling lagoons and waterways attract the greatest concentrations of wildlife on Earth. I first visited this ‘jewel of the Kalahari’ 30 years ago and its rich, wild beauty has never left me.
Today, the Okavango Delta is still an almost untouched wilderness. But like other wetlands around the world, it is a precious threatened habitat and a seasonal home to endangered species from elephants to lions, leopards, wild dogs and black rhino. It is also home to communities who depend on the floodwaters for food, water and life. Dams and large-scale projects in Angola now threaten the much-anticipated arrival of these floodwaters before they even reach Botswana.
In choosing the final habitat for my Let’s Save… series featuring the Amazon, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef, I wanted to put wetlands in the spotlight. Rich in biodiversity and important stepping stones for migrating species, wetlands also play a vital role in sequestering carbon in the fight against climate change.
So, I wrote Let’s Save the Okavango Delta and reached out to scientists from whom I could learn, to tell its story. I talked to Dr Mike Murray-Hudson, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana (Okavango Research Unit) and the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project team.
As a result of our conversations, National Geographic and the Wild Bird Trust in Botswana initiated a book tour visiting schools in the Eastern Panhandle, with local authors Onica Lekuntwane and Bontekanye Botumile. This exciting invitation was an opportunity to understand the ecology, people and issues surrounding the protection of this extraordinary wilderness.
Children reached the schools we visited on the ‘Elephant Express’. This unique school bus offers them a way to avoid potential conflict with elephants on their walk to school.
In classrooms I read, shared and learned from children about their relationships with wildlife in these remote areas. Every child has seen an elephant and most have heard a lion roar, but few had books. Walker Books as well as Otter-Barry Books, Quarto and Dorling Kindersley all kindly donated copies of my books, and the children’s enthusiasm for stories and joy in reading was so inspiring.
I am a Patron of Reading at my local school in Herefordshire, who keenly (as always) initiated a local nature project and created posters about UK wildlife: foxes, badgers and hedgehogs, that I shared with children in the Okavango. I hope these international relationships will endure and really look forward to sharing stories from the Delta with children in schools now I am home.
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To explore and/or buy Catherine’s books visit catherinebarrbooks.me
Many thanks to Catherine and the team at Walker books for their support this NNFN. They have generously offered a giveaway of three copies of this lovely book.