• Leopard/Impala
    Young leopard with impala kill. (Photo: Trent Alvey)
  • Red Lechwe
    Red Lechwe, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)
  • Young male lion
    Young male lions, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore
  • Khwai group
    Khwai, Okavango Delta, Botswana (Photo: Monthusi Sinvula)
  • Savuti
    Zebra, Savuti Marsh, Botswana. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)
  • Female leopard with young
    Female leopard with young. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)
  • Elephants Savuti
    Mothers with young, Okavango Delta. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)
  • Wild dogs
    Wild Dogs, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)
  • Natural History Display
    Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: Dennis Sizemore)

Africa – Wildlife Conservation, Okavango Delta, Botswana

My time with Round River in Botswana on the wildlife study abroad program solidified my passion for conservation, and jump-started my obsession with southern African peoples, wildlife, and culture.  If you are one of those people who wants to go out and ‘do it,’ actually make a difference on the ground, then a more hands-on and inspirational program can not be found. 
Chris Kelly, Lafayette College 2013

Round River, in partnership with the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) and local Community Trusts, is assisting the Southern Africa Regional Environmental Programme (SAREP) with wildlife monitoring in communally run Wildlife Management Areas in northeastern Botswana.

Reviewing maps with community escort guides in Mababe, Botswana (Susie Dain-Owens)

Community Guides review survey routes with Round River students and instructors.

Botswana is home to some of the world’s most abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Two immense wetlands, the Chobe-Linyanti-Zambezi Wetland and the Okavango Delta, support Africa’s largest concentration of carnivores and are home to over 80,000 elephants. The Okavango Delta, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest inland deltas in the world and supports a vast array of critical ecosystem services within an otherwise semi-arid region of northern Botswana. Surprisingly now for yet unknown reasons many of the wildlife populations of Botswana are now in serious decline. Round River’s efforts in Botswana are to begin to understand this decline and to assist local communities monitor these populations.

This project involves a variety of research activities that include assisting with wildlife monitoring and wildlife demography studies, computer and equipment training with community escort guides, rare/threatened bird monitoring, vegetation surveys, and monitoring ecosystem services in the Okavango Delta.

In Spring 2013, students assisted ORI and SAREP with developing and implementing the first round of Standardized Natural Resource Monitoring. This involved working closely with community guides in Sankoyo, Mababe, and Khwai to develop methodologies to monitor wildlife in the eastern Okavango Delta.

In Fall 2013, students  continued wildlife monitoring and training with guides in these same three areas, and expanded the project to the Chobe Enclave in northeastern Botswana. In Spring 2014, a volunteer field crew conducted field work in the same three communal concessions. In Spring 2015 students continued wildlife monitoring in Sankuyo, Mababe, and Khwai, as well as the Chobe Enclave. Round River staff traveled to Botswana in August 2015 to meet with project partners and discuss future plans in the area. Currently, we have students in Botswana continuing the above-mentioned field efforts.

There have been no cases of the Ebola virus in Botswana or any neighboring countries. The affected countries are over 2,500 miles to the north. 


Program Dates

  • February 17 – May 11
  • September 22 – December 15

Courses Offered:

  • Natural History of Botswana
  • Introduction to Biological Field Methods
  • Applied Conservation Biology
  • Humans and the Environment
  • Human Impacts on Ecology

What to Expect

Operating out of two 4WD vehicles, the student research crew group will be living in the bush and visiting a variety of different field sites and communities. For much of the time local community guides will camp with us, giving daily opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges. Students each morning, from the vehicles, will conduct game counts with community guides. Afternoons, at camp, are spent working with the guides on data entry, and covering coursework.

In 2015, students may participate in the following field activities:

  • monitoring wildlife numbers and conducting wildlife demography studies;
  • training community guides on computer skills and with other equipment;
  • conducting camera trapping studies;
  • interviewing the guides to document their knowledge of wildlife trends;
  • monitoring rare birds;
  • surveying vegetation and
  • monitoring ecosystem services.

The program academics are designed to complement the field research, and are both interactive and practical. Students will conduct research, work on their field journals, read and discuss relevant articles with the group, participate in lectures from program instructors, and complete assignments and essays. Around camp, students also help with building fires, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining equipment. Each program culminates with individual research papers, focusing on an aspect of the project.

Round River programs are all unique, with no program the same as the last. All in all, this challenging program provides an opportunity to experience Botswana and gain diverse perspectives on doing the work of conservation in southern Africa.

Student Projects

Fall 2013

A Review of Distance Sampling and Herbivore Abundance and Demographics in Northern Botswana. By Adelie Carstens & Emalia Mayo.

The Current Status of Vulture Species in the Okavango Delta. By Ben Daggett.

Interviews with Community Escort Guides: Herbivore and Carnivore Populations, Hunting Ban Effects and Transect Evaluation. By Amelia Pfeifle, Anna Nisi, and Jonathan Piazza.

Spring 2013

A Comparative Study of Reproductive Ratios and Grouping Patterns of impala (Aepyceros melampus), elephant (Loxodonta Africana), and giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) in the eastern Okavango Delta, Botswana.  By Susanna Howe & Sarah Kechejian.

Assessing the Feasibility of Community-Based Carnivore Monitoring in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Jack Massey.

An Evaluation of Standardized Natural Resource Monitoring, as Conducted by Round River Conservation Studies in Collaboration with Sankuyo, Khwai, and Mababe Community Trusts. By Sam Smith & Phoebe Howe.

Spring 2012

Effects of Large Herbivores on Understory Vegetation of Semi-Arid Savannahs, by Jordan Mead & Drew Vanetsky.

Elephant Feeding and Social Behavior Observed in Different Habitats of Chobe National Park, Botswana, by Molly Shane & Sarah Spinelli.

Impala (Aepyceros melampus) Behavior, in Linyanti Area, Chobe National Park, Botswana, by Sara Halm & Elena Rakowski.


  • Students and our local instructor, Gomoti River, Botswana (Susie Dain-Owens)
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  • Open-billed stork, Botswana (Susie Dain-Owens)
  • Hippos in the Mababe River (Susie Dain-Owens)
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