The Cheetah & The San Bushmen of Botswana

While traveling with Cheetah Conservation Botswana, I had the rare experience to meet the Nai Nai San Bushmen of the Central Kalahari. The name Nai Nai translates directly as “people of the bush” thus they consider themselves to be the true bushmen.  This small family group is one of many who travel through the area and stay for periods of time next to the Thakadu Bush Camp where, with an interpreter, they give demonstrations about their culture and way of life and survival.  For some San, these demonstrations are the only opportunity they have to pass along their dwindling cultural knowledge to the younger generation.   Marginalized by modernity and in recent history forced to leave the CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve) and reside in settlements like New Xade, the San’s story is one of indigenous peoples’ around globe, that of struggle to keep their way of life alive.

In this video, I asked about the cheetah and what this animal means to them.  The answer, as you’ll see, is one of co-existence, a symbiotic relationship.

A Nai Nai San Bushman demonstrates how to build a fire in the Central Kalahari of Botswana
A Nai Nai San Bushman demonstrates how to build a fire in the Central Kalahari of Botswana

To read more about New Xade and Cheetah Conservation Botswana, check out my National Geographic News Watch article here:

Reaching Out to Communities in Botswana.

All images, video & text: Marcy Mendelson © 2013 /



Meet the Author
Marcy Mendelson (above) is a conservation photographer working on a project to help save the cheetah through visual storytelling and reportage of the hard work by fundraisers, farmers, NGOs and local communities. She will be traveling to Africa this coming fall and reporting to National Geographic News Watch in addition to her site, Cheetah-Watch. In the meantime, she resides in San Francisco, California and works with nonprofits like Cat Haven and Animal Ark in observation of the outreach they do with animal lovers eager to help and learn. More about Marcy’s photography and interests can be found on her website, Mendelson Images.