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Image Caption: STS51I-33-0053 Okavango Delta and Swamp, Botswana August 1985
The dark "broom-shaped" area of this photograph indicates where the denser vegetation is found in the Okavango Inland Delta of northwest Botswana. The delta is part of the Ngami Depression, which is located at the extreme southern end of the East African Rift System and is the result of block faulting. The Okavango River, which originates in the plateau of southeastern Angola, provides an intermittent flow of water as the river enters the delta area from the northwest. East-west trending wind streaks are observed on the slightly elevated terrain west and northwest of the Okavango Delta. Because this delta is situated in a desert climate, Earth scientists have deemed this site to be one of the most ecologically sensitive areas on the planet. This sensitivity is heightened by the constant competition for specific land use among would-be users of the land, including farmers, cattle ranchers, and those who would establish a natural game preserve. Hot, humid conditions make this area an ideal habitat for the tsetse fly, a known carrier of African sleeping sickness. Because of the geographic location and the critical nature of the Okavango Delta, the countries of Angola and Namibia also feel their governments should participate in deciding the ultimate use of the delta.