Kalahari Desert

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Kalahari desert, Southern Africa.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Desert? No, It is a thirstland!

What and where
The Kalahari Desert is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Kgalagadi Africa extending 900,000 km² (362,500 sq. mi.). The name Kalahari is derived from the Tswana word Keir, meaning ‘the great thirst’, or the tribal word Kalagare that means ‘a waterless place’.

Why?
The Kalahari is mostly flat, with an average elevation of about 1,000 m (3,000 ft) above sea level. The sands of the Kalahari are red, brown, or white in places. The only permanent surface water in or around the Kalahari is the Boteti River.

The Kalahari has a number of game reserves - the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (world's 2nd largest protected area), Khutse Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Animals that live in the region include brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, antelope (including the oryx or gemsbok), and many species of birds and reptiles. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grasses and acacias but there are over 400 identified plant species present.

Although called a desert, the Kalahari Desert is not in fact a desert at all! At least not by the normal standards for classifying a desert. A more correct term would be a 'thirstland', as no-where in the Kalahari Desert sands is the rainfall less than 150mm a year. At times, it has been also called a ‘Fossil desert”.

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