There was a time when 500 000 wildebeest moved across the sands of the Kalahari in Botswana to graze on the nutritious grasses in the valleys of the Central Kalahari. This migration was second in sheer numbers only to the Great Migration of the Serengeti Ecosystem in East Africa.
But today the numbers of wildebeest have dropped dramatically but stabilized at 10% of the original population, most of which now reside in the protected areas of Botswana.At first this sounds like a catastrophe of imaginable proportions, and to many people it still is, but a background into the reasons for the drop in numbers is necessary before comment is made.On route into the Central from Maun the visitor will come into contact with a strong-looking double lined cable fence that runs as far as the eye can see in a straight line in one direction, be it east to west or north to south. These fences were erected in the 1970's and 1980's by the government of Botswana to prevent wildlife coming into contact with domestic herds as a means of preventing the spread of foot and mouth disease.
Botswana sold its beef to the European Union which in turn stipulated that the country had to control the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth. And so the fences were erected all over the country where wildlife was present.
The fence on the northern boundary of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was erected when the migratory wildebeest were in the reserve itself, and when the area dried up they migrated north as usual where they met the new fence.