08/12/2017 09:00 GMT | Updated 08/12/2017 09:00 GMT

Saving Botswana's Wildlife From Urban Sprawl

This 16-year old is doing everything she can to prevent further destruction of Botswana's incredible nature reserves.

Young environmental activists from across Africa, and global leaders in the field of conservation, have come together to bring attention to the plight of the continent's animals at the 2017 Youth Wildlife Forum, currently taking place at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Sixteen-year-old Lerato Malebe is one of the inspiring delegates working on the ground. Hailing from Botswana, she is one of the thousands of young people who are concerned about the preservation of the natural habitats in and around her country, particularly the urban green belts which, Malebe tells HuffPost SA, are under threat owing to uncontrolled urban expansion.

Malebe presented a research project of hers, in partnership with another delegate from Namibia, that addresses urban planning's effect on wildlife sustainability.

Garreth van Niekerk

"We have to incorporate wildlife into our urban planning because cities are growing at an alarming rate. African cities are expanding at 4% annually, so we have to consider that, and find a way for wildlife to co-exist in the urban environment," Malebe said.

The balance between development, and preservation, however, is a tricky one to maintain, she says.

"There's of a lot of conflict because these are developing countries, who usually put development first, urban planning first, and do not pay much to the wildlife aspect. Most of the development you find now didn't take into consider wildlife, because there wasn't much of a problem back then, but as cities get bigger the problem becomes more serious."

The solution, Malebe believes, is in creating more greenbelts in urban environments to save the flora and fauna indigenous to those environments.

"We need to provide a place for wildlife to thrive, not just survive."