Ever since the appearance of "On the African Wildlife Crusade" {Style, Jan. 20}, the Embassy of Botswana and our mission at the United Nations have been inundated with telephone calls and letters from a wide spectrum of the American public. Some have been to Botswana and others have not. However, all were disturbed by the content and tenor of Henry Mitchell's article and contacted us to establish the truth.

Regrettably, Mr. Mitchell accepted as the gospel truth what Mark and Delia Owens told him. If he had bothered to verify his facts, he would have found out that the Owenses have no standing, in Botswana or internationally, to talk about Botswana's conservation policies. By their own account in their book ''Cry of the Kalahari,'' they lived for seven years in a remote area of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and deliberately shunned contact with the general citizenry as well as officials of the country. It is not surprising, therefore, that they have such a jaundiced view of Botswana generally and its conservation policies in particular.

Botswana, unlike many other countries, still possesses many species of wildlife in considerable numbers, thanks to timely decisions by the government to recognize wildlife as an important national resource. Bot-swana has always viewed its wildlife in terms of its potential contribution to the economic well-being of the nation as well as its heritage and aesthetic value. At independence in 1966, eight national parks and game reserves covering 100,000 square kilometers, or 17 percent of the country, were established. In 1986 the Botswana parliament approved a Wildlife Conservation Policy that, among other things, set aside another 20 percent of our territory, for an approximate total of 200,000 square kilometers -- the size of Pennsylvania and Virginia put together -- devoted to wildlife. Very few countries, if any, can match Botswana's record in this regard.

I would be remiss if I did not also challenge the allegations made about veterinary cordon fences. First, the first cordon fences were built as far back as 1954, and their primary function is to control movement of livestock -- not wildebeests, as theOwenses allege. Second, as far as we know, it has never been suggested anywhere that wildebeests carry foot-and-mouth disease. However, research carried out in the early 1970s by the Botswana Veterinary Service and the World Foot and Mouth Reference Laboratory has established that buffaloes are carriers of foot-and-mouth disease, though the strain of the disease they carry has never broken out in Botswana. Third, during the past seven years of drought, both wildlife and livestock have died, but the Owenses and their friends have always avoided mentioning that cattle have also died.

It is regrettable that the Owenses, whom Botswana and its people hosted for seven years, should be the instruments of such adverse publicity about our country. The Post's description of them as "a naughty, naughty couple" is very fitting. It is sad, but true, to state that the actions of the Owenses to date have harmed rather than promoted the cause of conservation. S. T. KETLOGETSWE Ambassador of Botswana Washington