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History of BirdLife Botswana

The history of BirdLife Botswana has to be seen in the context of birding in Botswana and Huw Penry gives a good account of this in his book Bird Atlas of Botswana. Wendy and Remi Borello (1997- Birds of Botswana: An annotated working bibliography 1835-1995) give an account of birding explorations in Botswana and the first publication of birds in Botswana was The Checklist of the Birds of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Caprivi Strip by R.N.H. Smithers in 1964. This was followed long after by the publication of The Birds of Botswana in 1989 by Kenneth Newman (now sadly out of print) and in 1994, the Bird Atlas of Botswana by Huw Penry (see Books and Pamphlets).

In 1980 the Botswana Bird Club (BBC) was established to fill the void in ornothological knowledge and interest that existed then in Botswana, and still to a certain extent remains today, despite the great strides made by the BBC and the Society, under its current name, BirdLife Botswana.

The BBC was originally a branch of the Botswana Society in 1980.   It has, throughout its history, been composed of members, who were and still are mainly, expatriate birders who temporarily reside in Botswana. However, efforts are being made to secure the future of the organisation by encouraging a greater local, resident membership.

Malcolm Hodgson was the first Chairman of the Club and the first editor of the Babbler. Other key people in the 1980s included Janet Barnes, Brian and Di Bushell, Wendy Borello, Nigel Hunter, Adam Pain, Huw Penry, Peter Robbins, Neville Skinner, Ken Smith, and Richard Teuten. Both Janet Barnes and Nigel Hunter had stints as Chairmen whilst Wendy Borello was Editor of Babbler for 10 years. Janet Barnes and Brian Bushell produced the first checklist of the Birds of Gaborone. Harold Hester has been Chairman since 1995, apart from a two-year break in 2000/1, when Peter Viner took control. Other recent ornithologists who have contributed so much include Stephanie Tyler, Chris Brewster, Mark Muller, Richard Randall and Sue Major.

In 2000 the BBC became independent and moved into the offices of the local branch of IUCN (the World Conservation Union) and became the official BirdLife International representative for Botswana also. The change of name from the Botswana Bird Club, to BirdLife Botswana also heralded a change in focus from a broadly social club with interests in bird conservation, to a more formal science and research based organisation. Since 1980 the journal the Babbler has been published biannually and a quarterly newsletter, the Familiar Chat has been published since 1990. Both publications have been produced by the dedicated efforts of a succession of volunteer editors, to which all members of the organisation, past and present, are eternally grateful.


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