Founded as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana. It is one of the longest running large predator research projects in Africa and one of only a handful of its caliber worldwide. 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. The Government of Botswana, also acknowledging that appropriate and necessary resource management cannot be undertaken in the absence of accurate information about its natural resources, 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).
The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust is led by husband and wife team J. Weldon (“Tico”) McNutt PhD and Lesley Boggs MA. Dr. McNutt began his pioneering work in the Okavango Delta in 1989 while working on his PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. His focus was the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), about which very little was known. In the past 18 years, working with graduate students and local staff, Tico has charted the individual life histories of more than 1000 wild dogs spanning eight generations. As a result of Dr. McNutt’s painstaking work, the African wild dog has been transformed from a misunderstood and persecuted species to a valued member of ecotourism’s Big 7, the animals most sought after by ecotourists visiting Africa. Tico now supervises an expanding team of researchers and graduate students to fulfill the program’s mission of large carnivore research and conservation.
Lesley and Tico met in Botswana in 1992 and together they decided to embrace wildlife conservation as life and career. Lesley then returned to McGill University in Montreal where she completed a Masters in Development Anthropology. Her research has focused on resource management, human-wildlife conflict, and the relationships between protected areas and the adjacent lands, to establish human solutions for the preservation of Africa’s large predators and their habitats. As the Director of Social Programs, Lesley has deliberated over the key question of “how can we have the most impact with our conservation efforts?” In recent years Lesley has spearheaded a successful initiative called Coaching for Conservation – a project that aims to instill core values such as “respect for life and living things” in the youth of Botswana through organized sport.
Tico and Lesley have a research camp in the Okavango Delta, where they have lived nearly continuously for the past seventeen years and raised two boys, Madison (12) and Wilder (8). Two aircraft, a Cessna 182 and a microlight enable them to carry out fieldwork in their study area that spans more than 3000 sqkms.