| || The mokoro, a delicate traditional craft made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, is the only means of transport local people use to negotiate the marshy labyrinth where southern Africa’s third-longest river meets its end. After an 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) journey that began in Angola, the Okavango ends here, north of Botswana, in a vast inland delta covering some 5,790 square miles (15,000 square kilometers). It will never reach the sea, for the 12 billion cubic meters of water it carries each year are gradually soaked up by the Kalahari Desert, or evaporate in the dry air. Before disappearing, the river forms a large wetland, inhabited by a prodigious number of wild animals. But the annual invasion of some 45,000 tourists and a plan to drain rivers are threatening the marsh and its wildlife. The rapid shrinkage of wetlands and estuaries is a worldwide problem: half the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1990.Yet they play a central part in human communities, notably by controlling ﬂoods and preserving drinking water supplies.
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